The following are the most commonly used terms in orthodontics. If you have any questions about orthodontics or would like to
schedule an appointment, please contact our office.
Anterior Teeth: The upper and lower six front teeth on each arch.
Appliance: Any orthodontic device which moves or retains teeth. Appliances may also alter the positioning of the jaw.
Arch: The entire upper or lower jaw.
Archwire: The metal wire that connects orthodontic brackets. This wire guides the teeth into their new alignment.
Band with bracket: Metal bands (rings) that are generally cemented around the back teeth.
Braces: Fixed orthodontic appliances designed to align teeth.
Brackets: The tiny metal, ceramic or clear brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth on the arch.
Brushing: This is a crucial part of home dental care. Orthodontists recommend those wearing braces to brush after every meal
and snack to eliminate bacteria and plaque.
Buccal: The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the lower and upper arches.
Cephalometric Radiograph: A side x-ray of the face and head used to show growth and development.
Chain: Elastics connected together and placed around the brackets to stabilize the archwire and gently close spaces.
Class I Malocclusion: Molars are correctly aligned, but there is an anterior/posterior crossbite, an openbite or overcrowding on
Class II Malocclusion: Also known as an overbite. The upper front teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth.
Class III Malocclusion: Also known as an underbite. The lower front teeth are positioned further forward than the upper front
Closed Bite: The upper front teeth completely overlap the bottom teeth causing a deep overbite.
Congenitally Missing Teeth: Some permanent teeth fail to develop and erupt due to genetic factors.
Crossbite: A malocclusion in which the upper back teeth bite inside or outside the lower back teeth, or the lower front teeth
in front of the upper front teeth.
De-banding: The removal of orthodontic bands from the teeth.
De-bonding: The removal of affixed orthodontic brackets from the teeth.
Diagnostic Records: Records used to assess, plan and implement treatments. These records usually include medical and dental
history, radiographs, panoramic radiographs, bite molds and intraoral/extraoral photographs.
Digital Radiograph: Digital x-rays of the teeth which can be viewed, stored and transmitted via computer.
Elastics: Some braces may require that elastic rubber bands be attached to exert additional pressure to an individual tooth or
a group of teeth.
Eruption: The way in which teeth surface through the gums inside the mouth.
Fixed Orthodontic Appliances: Orthodontic appliances which are affixed to the teeth by the orthodontist and cannot be removed
by the patient.
Flossing: An essential part of home care that removes debris and plaque from above and below the gumline.
Functional Appliances: Orthodontic appliances that use the muscle movement created by swallowing, eating and speaking to
gently move and align the teeth and jaws.
Gingiva: The gums and soft tissue around the teeth.
Headgear: A removable appliance comprised of a brace and external archwire. This device modifies growth and promotes tooth
Impressions: Teeth impressions are taken to allow the orthodontist to see exactly how a patient’s teeth fit together.
Interceptive Treatment: Treatment performed on children who have a mixture of adult and baby teeth. Early treatment can help
reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment in the future.
Invisalign®: A newer, removable type of dental aligner that is completely transparent and doesn’t interfere with
eating because it’s removable. Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.
Ligating Modules: An elastic donut-shaped ring which helps secure the archwire to the bracket.
Ligation: Securing the archwire to the brackets.
Lingual Side: The side of the teeth (in both arches) that is closest to the tongue.
Malocclusion: Literally means “bad bite” in Latin, and refers to teeth that do not fit together correctly.
Mandible: The lower jaw.
Maxilla: The upper jaw.
Mouthguard: A removable plastic or rubber device that protects teeth and braces from sporting injuries.
Open Bite: Upper and lower teeth fail to make contact with each other. This malocclusion is generally classified as anterior
Orthodontics: The unique branch of dentistry concerned with diagnosing, preventing and correcting malocclusions and jaw
Orthodontist: A dental specialist who prevents, diagnoses and treats jaw irregularities and malocclusions. Orthodontists must
complete two or three additional years of college after dental school and complete a residency program.
Palatal Expander: A removable or fixed device designed to expand the palate in order create room on either the upper or lower
Panoramic Radiograph: An extraoral (external) x-ray that shows the teeth and jaws.
Plaque: The sticky film of saliva, food particles and bacteria that contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.
Posterior Teeth: Back teeth.
Removable Appliance: An orthodontic brace or device that can be removed at will by the patient. It must be worn for the
designated amount of time each day to be effective.
Separators: A wire loop or elastic ring placed between the teeth to create room for the subsequent placement of bands or
Space Maintainer: A fixed appliance used to hold space for permanent (adult) tooth. This is usually used when a baby tooth
has been lost earlier than anticipated.
Wax: Orthodontic relief wax is a home care remedy used to alleviate irritations caused by braces.
Wires: Attached to the brackets to gently move the teeth into proper alignment.