Orthodontic Dictionary

The following are the most commonly used terms in orthodontics.

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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