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Orthodontic Glossary

Acrylic – Plastic

AAO – American Association of Orthodontists

ABO – American Board of Orthodontists

ADA – American Dental Association

Appliance – A device that is connected to your teeth or braces which can move your teeth or adjust your jaw shape.  Appliances can be either fixed (cemented in place) or removable.

Ankylosis – When a tooth is fused to the bone and cannot be moved orthodontically

Arch – The upper or lower teeth as a whole

Archwire – The engine that moves your teeth.  This metal wire fits into your bands and brackets and guides your teeth to their new and straighter positions.

Band – A metal ring to which brackets or other orthodontic attachments can be connected to.  Compared to brackets, bands are better able to withstand the forces of chewing so they are typically used on the back teeth.

Bond – To attach or glue a bracket to a tooth. 

Bracket – A metal, ceramic, or plastic piece that is bonded to a tooth.  The bracket contains a slot which the archwire fits into. 

Bruxism – Grinding of the teeth, usually when sleeping.

Buccal – Facing the cheeks

Cement – To fixate a band or orthodontic appliance to a tooth

Ceramic Brackets – Commonly referred to as “clear braces,” these crystalline brackets are less noticeable than traditional metal brackets.  Read more about ceramic braces.

Coil Spring – A spiral piece that fits over the archwire, and in between two teeth.  A coil spring opens space between the two teeth it pushes against.

Cephalometic X-ray (Ceph) – An x-ray which shows the teeth and bones of the face, jaws, and head. 

Class II (Class 2) – When the upper jaw or teeth lie farther forward relative to the lower jaw or teeth.  This creates a large overjet which some people call a large “overbite.”

Class III (Class 3) – When the lower jaw or teeth lie farther forward relative to the upper jaw or teeth.  This creates a negative overjet which some people call an “underbite.”

Consultation – A meeting with the orthodontist or treatment co-ordinator to discuss treatment possibilities.

Crowding – Misalignment of teeth caused by lack of space.  

Deband – To remove orthodontic bands from teeth.

Debond – To remove brackets or tubes from teeth

Decalcification – Permanent white spots on the teeth due to breakdown of tooth minerals.  Decalcification is caused by improper oral hygiene.  

DDS – Doctor of Dental Surgery

DMD  Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris (Latin) which when translated, means Doctor of Dental Medicine

Elastic (Rubber Band) – A stretchy band that hooks onto different parts of the braces.  Elastics are used to move teeth and correct bites in ways that braces alone cannot do. 

Elastic Tie (O-tie) – A small rubber tie that fits around the bracket and secures the archwire.  Elastic ties come in many colors.

Etch – To apply a weak acidic solution to a tooth for the purpose of preparing the tooth for bonding

Expectorate – To spit out

Facebow – A component of headgear.  A facebow consists of an inner bow and an outer bow.  The inner bow fits into the headgear tubes inside the mouth.  The outer bow lies outside the cheeks and connects to the headstrap or neckstrap. 

Facemask  A removable appliance worn to encourage growth of the upper jaw in order to correct a negative overjet (underbite).  Also called a reverse-pull headgear.

Frenum – A piece fibrous tissue  that connects the lip, cheek, or tongue to the gum area

Gingiva – Gum tissue

Gingivitis – Inflammation of the gingiva

Headgear – A removable appliance worn to restrict growth of the upper jaw and improve overjet (“overbite”) problems.  It normally consists of a facebow that attaches to the teeth and a strap that fits around the neck or head. 

Headgear Tube – A hollow tube to which the inner bow of the headgear fits into.  Headgear tubes, when present, are typically found on the upper molar bands.

Hook – An attachment for elastics.  Hooks can be found connected to brackets and bands or attached to archwires. 

Impression – A mold of your teeth made by placing gel-like material on your teeth which hardens in a couple of minutes. 

Interproximal Reduction (IPR) – A procedure where teeth are slenderized by removing small amounts of outer tooth structure (enamel).  IPR is commonly done to make more space for your teeth to fit.  Also known as enamel stripping, reproximation, slenderizing.  Read more

Invisalign® – A system of clear aligners used to straighten teeth. Read more

Labial – Facing the lips

Ligate – To secure the archwire to a bracket using an elastic or wire tie. 

Ligature  A rubber tie or wire tie used to secure the archwire to the bracket

Lingual – Pertaining to the tongue. For example, lingual braces are found on the tongue side of teeth

Lip Bumper – A wire or piece of plastic connected to the lower molars which serve to preserve or create space for other teeth.  The lip bumper runs from the molar on one side to the molar on the other side, in between the teeth and lips.

Malocclusion – bad bite

Mandible – Lower jaw

Mandibular – Pertaining to the lower jaw

Maxilla – Upper jaw.

Maxillary – Pertaining to the upper jaw

Mesiodens – An extra tooth found in between the upper central incisors or in the surrounding bone area

Midline – An imaginary line formed by the two upper or two lower central incisors

Miniscrew – See Temporary Anchorage Device

Mouthguard – A removable plastic piece that fits over the teeth.  It protects the teeth and inside of the mouth while playing sports

Occlusion – Bite

Orthodontist – A dentist who has completed at least two years of additional orthodontic training after dental school.

Orthognathic surgery – Surgery done to modify the jaw bones.  Read more

Overbite – Vertical overlap of the front teeth.

Overjet – Horizontal overlap of the front teeth, often incorrectly called “overbite”

Palatal Expander – An appliance used to widen the upper jaw

Palate – Roof of the mouth and underlying structures

Panoramic X-ray (Pano) – A single x-ray that shows the teeth and portions of the jaws.  It is taken by a machine that rotates around the head.

Periodontics – The dental specialty pertaining to care of the structures that support the teeth.

Power Chain – An elastic chain used to close spaces or keep spaces from opening

RadiographOften called an X-ray, a radiograph is an image produced by ionizing radiation

Relapse – Teeth or jaws moving back towards their original position
Reposition – To remove brackets or bands and place them in different orientations on the teeth.  Repositions are done because when teeth are misaligned, it is difficult to put the brackets and bands in their ideal positions.

Retainer – An appliance used to keep teeth from shifting.  Retainers are worn after orthodontic treatment.  Retainers are either removable or fixed (bonded directly to the teeth)Read more 

Reverse-Pull Headgear (Facemask) – A removable appliance worn to encourage growth of the upper jaw in order to correct a negative overjet (underbite). 

Root Resorption – The tendency of a root of a tooth to shorten. 

Separator (Spacer) – A rubber ring slightly larger than an O-tie that is placed in between two teeth.  The purpose of separators is to create space for bands. 

Temporary Anchorage Device (TAD) – A metal screw placed in the palate or gum areas that serve to provide additional stability when moving teeth.  The screw is removed after the desired tooth movement has occurred.  Read more

Tongue Thrust – A habit of positioning the tongue forward against and in between the upper and lower front teeth.  This habit can happen at rest or during swallowing and can cause open bites

TMD - Temporomandibular Dysfunction

TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) – The joint where the lower jaw joins with the skull

Tube – A hollow attachment that the archwire passes through

Wire tie – A thin wire used to secure the archwire to the bracket.

Wax – If a part of the braces starts to irritate the cheek or lip, the patient can put wax over the irritable part to stop the irritation. 

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