Orthodontic Glossary Terms

Front of the mouth.

Any device, attached to the teeth or removable, designed to move the teeth, change the position of the jaw, or hold the teeth in their finished positions after braces are removed.

The metal wire that is attached to the brackets and used to move the teeth.

The metal ring that is cemented to a tooth for strength and anchorage.

A word commonly used to describe a fixed orthodontic appliance, usually comprised of brackets, bands and wires.

The small metal, ceramic, or plastic attachment bonded to each tooth with a tooth-colored adhesive. The bracket has a slot that the archwire fits into.

Brushing the teeth is part of an individual’s daily home dental care. Patients with braces should follow the orthodontist’s instruction on how often to brush.

An orthodontic appliance that corrects the posterior occlusion to an ideal Class I position by rotating and uprighting the molars while distalizing (moving backwards) the posterior segment, from canine or premolor to molars, into a ideal occlusion.

A lateral (side view) x-ray of the head. We will more than likely refer to this as a “Ceph.”

A stretchable series of elastic o-rings connected together and placed around each bracket to hold the archwire in place and move the teeth.

Also known as deep overbite, this occurs when the upper front teeth overlap the bottom front teeth an excessive amount.

A genetic occurrence in which the expected number of permanent teeth do not develop.

Upper posterior (back) teeth are in crossbite if they erupt and function inside or outside of the arch in the lower posterior teeth. Lower anterior (front) teeth are I crossbite if they erupt and function in front of the upper anterior teeth. A crossbite can be individual teeth or groups of teeth. Below is a photo of a posterior crossbite.

DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are equivalent degrees, according to The American Dental Association. All orthodontists educated in the U.S. or Canada will have either a DDS or DMD after their names. Orthodontists have an additional two to three years of specialty education in an accredited orthodontic residency program after dental school to become orthodontists.

The material and information that the orthodontist needs to properly diagnose and plan a patient’s treatment. Diagnostic records may include a thorough patient health history, a visual examination of the teeth and supporting structures, plaster models of the teeth, a wax bite registration, extraoral and intraoral photographs, a panoramic and a cephalometric radiograph.

Rubber bands. During certain stages of treatment, small elastics or rubber bands are worn to provide individual tooth movement or jaw alignment.

An orthodontic appliance that is bonded or cemented to the teeth and cannot be or should not be removed by the patient.

An important part of daily home dental care. Flossing removes plaque and food debris from between the teeth, brackets and wires. Flossing keeps teeth and gums clean and healthy during orthodontic treatment.

The surgical removal or repositioning of the frenum, the lip and tongue attachment located between the upper and lower front teeth. A large frenum attachment can cause spacing between top front teeth or cause the tongue to be tied.

Appliances that utilize the muscle action produced when speaking, eating and swallowing to produce force to move the teeth and align the jaws. They are also known as orthopedic appliances with names such as orthopedic corrector, activator, bionator, Frankel, Herbst or twin block appliances.

Soft tissue around the teeth, also known as the gums.

This appliance is used to move the lower jaw forward. It can be fixed or removable. When it is fixed, it is cemented to teeth in one or both arches using stainless steel crowns. An expansion screw may be used simultaneously to widen the upper jaw.

A tooth that does not erupt into the mouth or only erupts partially is considered impacted.

Orthodontic treatment performed to intercept a developing problem. Usually performed on younger patients that have a mixture of primary (baby) teeth and permanent teeth.

Removal of a small amount of enamel from between the teeth to reduce their width. Also known as reproximation, slenderizing, stripping, enamel reduction or selective reduction.

The surface of the teeth in both arches that faces the lips.

The tongue side of the teeth in both arches.

The inability to close the lips together at rest, usually due to protrusive front teeth or excessively long faces.

The dental developmental stage in children (approximately ages 6-12) when they have a mix of primary (baby) and permanent teeth.

A removable device used to protect the teeth and mouth from injury caused by sporting activities. The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients.

A removable appliance worn at night to help an individual minimize the damage or wear while clenching or grinding teeth during sleep.

A malocclusion in which teeth do not make contact with each other. With an anterior open bite, the front teeth do not touch when the back teeth are closed together. With a posterior open bite, the back teeth do not touch when the front teeth are closed together. Below is a photo of an anterior open bite.

A removable or fixed appliance that assists in tooth irregularity or jaw relationships.

The specialty area of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis, supervision, guidance and correction of malocclusions. The formal name of the specialty is orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.

A specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are required to complete college requirements, graduate from an accredited dental school and successfully complete a minimum of two academic years of full-time, university-based study at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have completed this education may call themselves “orthodontists.” Orthodontists limit their practice to orthodontic treatment only unless they have training in another dental specialty. Only residency-certified orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

A fixed or removable device used to make the upper jaw wider.

An x-ray that shows all the teeth and both jaws on one film. You may hear us refer to this as a “PX” or “Pano” x-ray.

Refers to the hard and soft tissue, or supporting structures, around the teeth.

Plaque is a colorless, sticky film of bacteria, food particles and saliva that constantly forms in the mouth. Plaque combines with sugars to form an acid that endangers teeth and gums. Plaque causes tooth decay and gum disease.

Orthodontic treatment to prevent or reduce the severity of a developing malocclusion (bad bite).

An orthodontic appliance that can be removed from the mouth by the patient. Removable appliances are used to move teeth, align jaws and to keep teeth in their new positions when the braces are removed (retainers).

A fixed or removable appliance worn after the braces are removed. A removable retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in their finished positions.

During certain stages of treatment, small elastics or rubber bands are worn to provide individual tooth movement or jaw alignment.

An elastic o-ring or small wire loop placed between the teeth to create space for placement of bands. Separators are usually placed between the teeth a week before bands are scheduled to be cemented to the teeth.

Selective or guided removal of certain primary (baby) teeth and/or permanent teeth over a period of time to create room for permanent teeth.

A fixed appliance used to hold space for an unerupted permanent tooth after a primary (baby) tooth has been lost prematurely, due to accident or decay.

A genetic occurrence in which there are more teeth than the usual number. These teeth can be malformed or erupt in abnormally.

An individual’s tongue pushes against the teeth when swallowing. Forces generated by the tongue can move the teeth and bone and may lead to an anterior or posterior open bite.

Wax is placed on the brackets or archwires to prevent them from irritating the lips or cheeks.

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