Orthodontic Dictionary

The following are the most commonly used terms in orthodontics.  If you have any questions about orthodontics or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our office.

Anterior Teeth: The upper and lower six front teeth on each arch.

Appliance: Any orthodontic device which moves or retains teeth.  Appliances may also alter the positioning of the jaw.

Arch:  The entire upper or lower jaw.

Archwire: The metal wire that connects orthodontic brackets.  This wireguides the teeth into their new alignment.

Band with bracket: Metal bands (rings) that are generally cemented around the back teeth. It has a bracket welded to it where the archwire is placed

Bond: The seal created by the orthodontic cement that holds your braces in place.

Braces: Fixed orthodontic appliances designed to align teeth.

Brackets: The tiny metal, ceramic or clear brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth in the arch.

Brushing: This is a crucial part of home dental care.  Orthodontists recommend those wearing braces to brush after every meal and snack to eliminate bacteria and plaque.

Buccal: The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the upper and lower arches.

Canines: The pointy “fang” teeth in the maxilla and mandible which are the third tooth back from the front.

Cephalometric Radiograph: A side x-ray of the face and head used to show growth and development.

Chain: Elastics connected together and placed around the brackets to stabilize the archwire and gently close spaces.

Class I Malocclusion: Molars are correctly aligned, but there is malocclusion of the other teeth.

Class II Malocclusion: Also known as an overbite.  The upper front teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth.

Class III Malocclusion: Also known as an underbite.  The lower front teeth are positioned further forward than the upper front teeth.

Closed Bite/Deep Bite: The upper front teeth completely overlap the bottom teeth causing a deep overbite.

Coil Spring: a spring that fits between your brackets and over the archwire to open space between teeth.

Congenitally Missing Tooth: A permanent tooth has failed to develop and erupt due to genetic factors.

Crossbite: A malocclusion in which the upper back teeth bite inside or outside the lower back teeth, or the lower front teeth bite in front of the upper front teeth.

De-banding: The removal of orthodontic bands from the teeth.

De-bonding: The removal of affixed orthodontic brackets from the teeth.

Diagnostic Records: The collection of photographs, radiographs, and digital scan of teeth which is used to assess, plan and implement orthodontic treatment.  These records usually include medical and dental history.

Digital Radiograph: Digital x-rays of the teeth which can be viewed, stored and transmitted via computer. Compared to conventional film, digital x-rays are captured electronically and transferred to the computer immediately to view.

Digital Scan: A 3-dimensional scan of the dentition using a digital camera. Essentially, the scanner takes thousands images or pictures of the dentition and gingival tissues through the camera which is placed over your teeth to compile and configure them it into a 3-dimensional digital image.  This technique replaces the traditional dental molds which are taken of your teeth.

Elastics: A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance to provide pressure to move the teeth. Certain malocclusions require the use of elastomeric products to exert additional force to an individual tooth or group of teeth to help correct the misalignment of the dentition.   

Elastic Chain: The ligating modules that are connected and are used to close spaces between the teeth. Elastic chain comes in a rainbow of colours to choose from

Elastic Tie/ Modules (O-rings): An elastic donut-shaped ring which helps secure the archwire to the bracket. They come in a rainbow of colours for you to choose from.

Eruption: The way in which teeth surface through the gums inside the mouth.

Fixed Orthodontic Appliances: Orthodontic appliances which are affixed to the teeth by the orthodontist and cannot be removed by the patient. Otherwise known as braces.

Flossing: An essential part of home care that removes debris and plaque from above and below the gumline located in between teeth.

Functional Appliances: Orthodontic appliances that use the muscle movement created by swallowing, eating and speaking to gently move and align the teeth and jaws.

Gingiva: The gums and soft tissue around the teeth.

Headgear: A removable appliance comprised of an inner bow which connects to the bands on the upper molars and an outer bow that attaches to the neck strap. The force is applied by the spring modules attached to the neckstrap which also have a safety release.  This device modifies growth and promotes tooth movement. 

Headgear tube: The hollow round attachment located on the back bands. The inner bow of the headgear fits into this tube.

Hook: A welded or removable arm attached to the bracket to which elastics can be hooked to

Incisors: Front four teeth in the maxilla and mandible. These are the teeth we use to bite into and cut food with.

Impressions: Dental molds of your teeth which are taken to allow the orthodontist to see exactly how a patient’s teeth fit together or to fabricate an appliance customized to your mouth.

Interceptive Treatment: Treatment performed on children who have a mixture of adult and baby teeth, which is designed to help reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment in the future. Some types of treatment can only be done at this younger age and cannot be corrected in more mature patients as growth is minimal or has ceased.

Invisalign®: A newer, removable type of clear dental aligner that is very transparent and removable.  It can be associated with better oral hygiene as the aligners are removable for ease of cleaning. Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign® nor can all malocclusions be corrected with Invisalign.

Ligature Tie: A thin wire that wraps around the bracket to hold the archwire in place.

Ligation: Securing the archwire to the brackets.

Lingual Side: The side of the teeth (in both arches) that is closest to the tongue.

Lip Bumper: A lip bumper is a wire attached to a molded piece of plastic that sits outside of the lower  teeth and attaches to the lower molars. Lip pressure is designed to push back the molars creating more space for the teeth.

Malocclusion: Literally means “bad bite” in Latin, and refers to teeth that do not fit together correctly.

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Mouthguard: A removable plastic or rubber device that protects teeth and braces from sporting injuries.

Open Bite: Upper and lower teeth fail to make contact with each other.  This malocclusion is generally classified as anterior or posterior based on location

Orthodontics: The unique branch of dentistry concerned with diagnosing, preventing and correcting dental malocclusions and jaw irregularities.

Orthodontist: A dental specialist who prevents, diagnoses and treats jaw irregularities and malocclusions.  Orthodontists must complete two or three additional years of university training after dental school and complete a residency program.

Palatal Expander: A removable or fixed device designed to expand or widen the palate. Through this process more room is created in the upper arch as well. 

Panoramic Radiograph: An extraoral (external) x-ray that shows the teeth and jaws.

Plaque: The sticky film of saliva, food particles and bacteria which adheres to teeth that contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.

Posterior Teeth: Back teeth. This would include the premolar and molar teeth

Removable Appliance: An orthodontic device that can be removed at will by the patient.  It must be worn for the designated amount of time each day to be effective.

Separators: A wire loop or elastic ring placed between the teeth to create room for the subsequent placement of bands or orthodontic appliance.

Space Maintainer: A fixed appliance used to hold space for a permanent (adult) tooth or teeth.  This is usually used when one or more baby teeth have been lost earlier than anticipated.

Wax: Orthodontic relief wax is a home care remedy used to alleviate irritations caused by braces. The wax is placed over the irritation to smoothen the surface providing relief for the lip or cheek and allowing it to heal.

Wires: Attached to the brackets to gently move the teeth into proper alignment. There are a series of wires that the patient progresses through. In the final wire, the orthodontist may place strategic bends in the wire for precise dental movements to improve the occlusion.

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