Glossary of Terms


appliance- Any device used to influence the growth or position of teeth.

arch wire- A metal wire which is attached to your brackets to move your teeth.

band- A thin metal ring, usually stainless steel, which serves to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. The band is closely adapted to fit the contours of the tooth and is cemented into place.

bracket- An orthodontic attachment secured to a tooth for the purpose of attaching an arch wire. (Brackets with an attached arch wire are parts that “make” the appliance or brace.)

buccal tube- A small metal part that is welded on the outside of a molar band. The buccal tube contains slots to hold arch wires, lip bumpers, facebows and other things your orthodontist uses to move your teeth.

chain- A stretchable plastic chain used to hold arch wires into brackets and to move teeth.

facebow or headgear- Facebows are wire apparatuses used to move your upper molars back in your mouth which creates room for crowded or protrusive anterior teeth. Generally, the facebow consists of two metal parts which have been attached together. The inner part is shaped like a horseshoe. This part goes in your mouth and is connected to your buccal tubes. The outer part has two curves. The curves go around your face, and connect to the breakaways or high pull headgear. To properly use the product, the inner bow needs to be inserted into your buccal tubes. An elastic neck band is placed around the back of the neck while the triangular cast offs on both sides of neck band are attached to the outer bow of the headgear. Completing the apparatus is a plastic safety strap that is placed over the neck band and onto the outer bow of the headgear.

impression- A negative copy of a structure, such as a tooth or dental arch; usually made with an elastic compound for the purpose of making an exact positive replica in plaster.

interceptive orthodontics- An extension of preventive orthodontics that may include minor local tooth movement in an otherwise normally developing dentition.

ligating module- A small plastic piece, shaped like a donut, which is used to hold the arch wires in the brackets on your teeth.

lip bumper- A device used to push the molars on your lower jaw back to create more space for other teeth. The lip bumper consists of an arch wire which is attached to a molded piece of plastic. You mount the arch wire in the buccal tubes on your lower jaw, and the plastic piece rests against your lips. When you eat or talk, you push the plastic piece back which pushes your molars back.

mouthguard- A device that is used to protect your mouth from injury when you are participating in sports. The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients to prevent injuries.

orthodontics- The specialty area of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis, supervision, guidance and correction of malocclusions. It also includes dentofacial orthopedics.

 overbite- Vertical overlapping of upper teeth over lower teeth.

palatal expander- A device used to make your upper jaw wider.

retainer- Any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain teeth in corrected positions during the period of adaptation following corrective treatment.

safety strap- A plastic strap which prevents a facebow from coming loose and hurting you.

separator- A plastic ring or metal spring which the orthodontist uses to create space between your teeth for bands.

underbite– Caused by retrusion of the upper jaw and/or protrusion of the lower jaw.

wax- A clear wax used to prevent your braces from irritating your lips and cheeks.


banding- The process of cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.

bonding- The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using a special safe adhesive.

cephalometric x-rays- An x-ray of the head that shows whether your teeth and bones are aligned properly, and whether they are growing properly.

consultation- A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss the treatment plan.

debanding- The removal of cemented orthodontic bands.

debonding- The removal of the brackets from your teeth.

interceptive orthodontic treatment- Orthodontic treatment usually done when you are 7 to 10 years of age to intercept a developing problem. Usually performed on younger patients that have a mixture of baby teeth and permanent teeth.

panoramic x-ray- An x-ray taken by a machine that rotates around your head to give the orthodontist a picture of your teeth and jaws on one film.

records appointment- One of the initial appointments with your orthodontist. The orthodontist or assistant takes pictures, x-rays and impressions to determine the best treatment plan.


crossbite- A malocclusion where some of your upper teeth are inside of your lower teeth when you bite down.

crowding- Overlapping teeth caused by insufficient room in the jaws.

deep bite- Excessive overbite; closed bite.

diastema- A space between two teeth.

drift- Unwanted movement of teeth.

fixed appliance- Any orthodontic component that is cemented or bonded to the teeth.

full orthodontic treatment- Getting braces on all of the teeth.

Interproximal reduction-Removal of a small amount of enamel from between the teeth to reduce their width. Also known as slenderizing, stripping or enamel reduction. This procedure is preformed to create space for crowded teeth.

lingual appliances- Orthodontic appliance fixed to the inside of your teeth. Lingual appliances are attached to the part of your teeth next to your tongue.

lingual arch- An orthodontic wire attached from molar to molar on the inside of your teeth.

malocclusion- Incorrect positioning of your teeth resulting inteeth that do not fit together properly.

class I malocclusion- A malocclusion where your bite is OK (your top teeth line up with your bottom teeth) but your teeth are crooked or crowded or spaced apart or turned, or you have a deep bite or open bite or cross bite.

class II malocclusion- A malocclusion where your upper posterior teeth are forward of your lower teeth.

class III malocclusion- A malocclusion where your lower posterior teeth are forward of your upper teeth.

occlusion- The alignment of your upper and lower teeth when you bite down.

open bite- A malocclusion in which the teeth do not close or come together in a section of your mouth.

orthodontist- A specially trained dentist who has attended an advanced education program at an accredited orthodontic residency program for a continual training period of 2 to 3 years.

overjet- Horizontal projection of upper teeth beyond the lower.