Orthodontic Dictionary

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 & 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 & snack to eliminate bacteria & plaque.

Buccal: The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the lower & upper arches.

Cephalometric Radiograph: A side X-ray of the face & head used to show growth & development.

Chain: Elastics connected together & placed around the brackets to stabilize the archwire & gently close spaces.

Class I Malocclusion: Molars are correctly aligned, but there is an anterior/posterior crossbite, an open & bite 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 & 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 & implement treatments. These records usually include medical & dental history, radiographs, panoramic radiographs, bite molds & intraoral/extraoral photographs.

Digital Radiograph: Digital X-rays of the teeth which can be viewed, stored, & 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 & cannot be removed by the patient.

Flossing: An essential part of home care that removes debris & plaque from above & below the gumline.

Functional Appliances: Orthodontic appliances that use the muscle movement created by swallowing, eating & speaking to gently move & align the teeth & jaws.

Gingiva: The gums & soft tissue around the teeth.

Headgear: A removable appliance comprised of a brace & external archwire. This device modifies growth & 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 & 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 & 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, & 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 & braces from sporting injuries.

Open Bite: Upper & 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 & correcting malocclusions & jaw irregularities.

Orthodontist: A dental specialist who prevents, diagnoses & treats jaw irregularities & malocclusions. Orthodontists must complete two or three additional years of college after dental school & 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 & jaws.

Plaque: The sticky film of saliva, food particles & bacteria that contributes to gum disease & 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 a 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.