Orthodontic Terms

Orthodontic Terms

Understanding some important and often encountered words in orthodontics.

Orthodontic Terms

Understanding some important and often encountered words in orthodontics.

The Arch Wire is the part of your braces that actually moves the teeth. The arch wire is attached to the brackets by small elastic donuts or ligature wires. Arch Wires are changed throughout the treatment. Each change brings you closer to the ideal tooth position.

Brackets are the “Braces” or small attachments that are bonded directly to the surface of your tooth. The brackets are the part of your braces to which the dentist or assistant attaches the arch wire. Occasionally, a bracket may come loose and become an irritation to your mouth. You can remove the loose bracket and save it in an envelope to bring to the office. Call the office as soon as possible and make an appointment to re-glue the bracket.

A Band & Loop is routinely used to hold space for a missing primary (baby) posterior (back) tooth until the permanent tooth can grow in.

At some time during treatment, it will be necessary to wear elastics to coordinate the upper and lower teeth and perfect the bite. Once teeth begin to move in response to elastics, they move rapidly and comfortably.

These are used to help modify the growth of the jaws in children. The theory behind their action is that if you hold a jaw in a specific position long enough it will grow into that position. What you usually get is a combination of a little jaw growth with a lot of tooth movement. These are not universally accepted, as they don’t always work.

The first of these appliances were removable and are still very popular with some orthodontists. They are made of plastic and wire. Some of their names are Frankel, Bionator, and Twin-block. A different style is actually fixed to the teeth and uses a spring action to hold the jaw into position. These have names like Herbst and Jasper Jumper.

Often called a “night brace”. The headgear is used to correct a protrusion of the upper or lower jaw. It works by inhibiting the upper jaw from growing forward, or the downward growth of the upper jaw or even by encouraging teeth to move forward, if that is the case.

Another orthodontic appliance designed to encourage the lower jaw to grow forward and “catch up” to upper jaw growth.

This is used when you have the early loss of baby teeth or when you have lower teeth that are slightly crowded in a growing child and you don’t want to remove any permanent teeth to correct the crowding.


A lower lingual arch is a space maintainer for the lower teeth. It maintains the molars where they are and does not move them. This is fabricated by placing bands on the molars and connecting them to a wire that fits up against the inside of the lower teeth. It keeps the molars from migrating forward and prevents them from blocking off the space of teeth that develop later.

Malocclusion is poor positioning of the teeth.

There are 3 different types:



Malocclusion Class I: This is where the bite is OK (the top teeth line up with the bottom teeth), but the teeth are crooked, crowded or turned



Malocclusion Class II: This type of malocclusion is where the upper teeth stick out past the lower teeth and is also known as an overbite.



Malocclusion Class III: This is where the lower teeth stick out past the upper teeth. This type of malocclusion is also called an “underbite”.


Openbite Anterior (front) opening between upper and lower teeth.



Overbite: Vertical overlapping of the upper teeth over the lower teeth.



Overjet:Horizontal projection of the upper beyond the lower teeth.



Crossbite: A crossbite is when your top teeth bite inside the lower teeth.

O rings, also called A-lastics, are little rings used to attach the arch wire to the brackets. These rings come in standard gray or clear, but also come in a wide variety of colors to make braces more fun. A-lastics are changed at every appointment to maintain good attachment of the arch wire to the bracket, enabling our patients to enjoy many different color schemes throughout treatment.

A Palatal Widening Appliance is placed in the roof of the mouth to widen the upper dental arch. The maxilla, or upper dental arch, is joined in the center by a joint, which allows it to be painlessly separated and spread. Temporarily you may see a space develop between the upper two front teeth. This will slowly go away in a few days. Once this has occurred, the two halves knit back together and new bone fills in the space.

At the completion of the active phase of orthodontic treatment, braces are removed and removable appliances called retainers are placed. To retain means to hold. Teeth must be retained or held in their new positions while the tissues, meaning the bone, elastic membranes around the roots, the gums, tongue and lips have adapted themselves to the new tooth positions. Teeth can move if they are not retained so it is extremely important to wear your retainers as directed.

A plastic or rubber donut piece that the orthodontist uses to create space between your teeth for bands.


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