Orthodontic Dictionary


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 the arches.

  • 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 teeth.

  • 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 bite 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 movement.

  • 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 or posterior.

  • Orthodontics: The unique branch of dentistry concerned with diagnosing, preventing and correcting malocclusions and jaw irregularities.

  • 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 arch.

  • 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 orthodontic appliance.

  • 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.


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