Glossary of Orthodontic Terms

 
 

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Anterior

 
Front.
 

Appliances

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. 
 

Arch

Upper or lower jaw.
 

Archwire

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

Band

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

Braces

A word commonly used to describe a fixed orthodontic appliance, usually comprised of brackets,
bands and wires. These are the names of each part of a typical set of braces:
 
braces diagram archwire ligature brackets metal band elastic hooks

Brushing

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.
 

Bruxism

Grinding the teeth, usually during sleeping. Bruxism can cause abnormal tooth wear and may lead to pain in the jaw joints.
 

Buccal

 
The cheek side of the back teeth in both arches or jaws.
 

Buccal Tube

 
A small metal part of the bracket welded to the cheek side of the molar band. The tube may hold an archwire, lip bumper,
headgear facebow or other appliances an orthodontist may use to move the teeth. 
 

Cephalometric Radiograph

 
A lateral (side view) x-ray of the head.
 

Chain

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

Class I Malocclusion

 
A malocclusion with the proper molar relationship and teeth that are crowded together, spaced apart, an overbite,
an openbite, a posterior crossbite or an anterior crossbite. 
 

Class II Malocclusion

 
A malocclusion with the upper front teeth protruding or due to the lower teeth and/or jaw positioned back relative to the upper teeth and/or jaw.
 

Class III Malocclusion

 
A malocclusion with the lower front teeth protruding or due to the lower teeth and/or jaw positioned ahead relative to the upper teeth and/or jaw. 
 

Closed Bite/Deep Bite

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

Comprehensive Treatment

Complete orthodontic treatment performed to correct a malocclusion.
 

Congenitally Missing Teeth

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

Crossbite

 
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.
 

DDS or DMD

 
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.
 

Diagnostic Records

 
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.
 

Ectopic Eruption

 
Term used to describe a tooth or teeth that erupt in an abnormal position.
 

Eruption

 
The process by which teeth enter into the mouth.
 

Extraction

 
The removal of a tooth.
 

Elastics

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

Facebow

 
A wire appliance used with a nightbrace, or headgear. Primarily used to move the upper first molars back,
creating room for crowded or protrusive front teeth. The facebow has an internal wire bow and an external wire bow.
The internal bow attaches to the buccal tube on the upper molar bands inside the mouth and the outer bow attaches
to the breakaway safety strap of the nightbrace.
 

Fiberotomy

 
A surgical procedure designed to sever fibers of attachment around the tooth, usually performed to reduce the
potential for relapse or post-orthodontic treatment tooth movement.
 

Fixed Appliances

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

Flossing

 
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.
 

Frenectomy

 
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.
 

Functional Appliances

 
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.
 

Gingiva

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

Gummy Smile

 
Showing an excessive amount of gingival (gum) tissue above the front teeth when smiling.
 

Headgear

 
An appliance worn outside of the mouth to provide traction for growth modification and tooth movement.
 

Herbst Appliance

 
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.
 

Impaction

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

Interceptive Treatment

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

Interproximal Reduction

 
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. 
 

Labial

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

Ligating Modules

 
A small elastic o-ring, shaped like a donut, used to hold the archwire in the bracket.
 

Lingual

 
The tongue side of the teeth in both arches.
 

Lip Bumper

 
A wire appliance used to move the lower molars back and the lower front teeth forward, creating
room for crowded front teeth. The lip bumper is an internal wire bow that attaches to the buccal
tubes on the cheek side of the lower molar bands inside the mouth. The front portion of the bow
has an acrylic pad or bumper that rests against the inside of the lower lip. The lower lip muscles apply pressure to the bumper creating a force that moves the molars back.
 

Lip Incompetence

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

Malocclusion

 
The term used in orthodontics to describe teeth that do not fit together properly. From Latin, the term means "bad bite."
 

Mandible

 
Lower jaw.
 

Maxilla

 
Upper jaw.
 

Mixed Dentition

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

Mouthguard

 
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.
 

Nightguard

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

Open Bite

 
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.
 

Orthodontics

 
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.
 

Orthodontist

 
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.
 

Orthopedic Appliance

 
A removable functional appliance designed to guide the growth of the jaws and face.
 

Panoramic Radiograph

 
An x-ray that shows all the teeth and both jaws on one film.
 

Palatal Expander

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

Periodontal

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

Plaque

 
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.
 

Posterior

 
Back.
 

Preventive Treatment

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

Removable Appliance

 
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).
 

Retainer

 
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.
 

Rubber Bands

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

Safety Strap

 
The safety strap prevents the facebow of the headgear from coming loose and causing injury.
 

Separators

 
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.
 

Serial Extraction

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

Space Maintainer

 
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.
 

Supernumerary Teeth

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

Tongue Crib

 
A fixed appliance used to help a patient stop habits or undesirable tongue forces exerted on the teeth and bone that supports the teeth.
 

Tongue Thrust

 
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

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

Wires

 
Also known as archwires, they are held in the brackets using small elastic o-rings or stainless steel wire ligatures. Wires are used to move the teeth.