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Orthodontic Dictionary

The following are the most commonly used terms in orthodontics:

Anterior Teeth:

The upper and lower six front teeth on each arch.


Anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth that moves your teeth or changes the shape and/or position of your jaw.


The entire upper or lower jaw.


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.


The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.


Fixed orthodontic appliances designed to align teeth.


The tiny metal, ceramic or clear brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth on the arch.


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.


The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the lower and upper arches.

Cephalometic X-ray:

An x-ray of your head that shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws, and teeth.


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.

Coil Spring:

A spring that fits between your brackets and over your archwire to open space between your teeth.

Congenitally Missing Teeth:

Some permanent teeth fail to develop and erupt due to genetic factors.


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.


The removal of orthodontic bands from the teeth.


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.

Elastic (Rubber Band):

A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance/braces to provide pressure to move your teeth and jaws to their new position to align your bite.

Elastic Tie:

The rubber band that fits around your bracket to hold the archwire in place. These come in a variety of colors.


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.


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.


The gums and soft tissue around the teeth.


A removable appliance comprised of a brace and external archwire. This device modifies growth and promotes tooth movement.


The process of making a model of your teeth by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.

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.


An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear, removable, custom-molded aligners. Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems. Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

Ligating Modules:

An elastic donut-shaped ring which helps secure the archwire to the bracket.


Securing the archwire to the brackets.

Lingual Side:

The side of the teeth (in both arches) that is closest to the tongue.

Lower Expander:

A device that makes your lower jaw/bone that teeth sit on wider.


Literally means “bad bite” in Latin, and refers to teeth that do not fit together correctly.


The lower jaw.


The upper jaw.


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.


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


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 device that makes your upper jaw wider.

Panoramic X-ray:

An x-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw and other facial areas.


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.


An appliance that is worn after your braces are removed, the retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in place. Some retainers are removable and others are bonded to the tongue-side of several teeth.

Separator (or Spacer):

A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth (usually molars) before the bands are fitted and attached.

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.


Orthodontic relief wax is a home care remedy used to alleviate irritations caused by braces.


The metal wire that acts as a track to guide your teeth along as they move. It is attached to the brackets to gently move the teeth into proper alignment. It is changed periodically throughout treatment as your teeth move to their new positions.

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