Glossary of Orthodontic Terms1
aligners – Clear, thin, removable trays that are formed to fit an individual’s teeth and are used to straighten teeth. Patients are responsible for insertion and removal.
appliances – Any device used by an orthodontist, attached to the teeth or removable, designed to move the teeth, change the position of the jaw, or hold the teeth.
archwire – The metal wire that is attached to the brackets and used to move the teeth.
band – The metal ring, usually on a back tooth, 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.
bracket - The small metal, ceramic, or plastic attachment is bonded to each tooth with a tooth-colored adhesive. The bracket has a slot that the orthodontic wire fits into. Also known as a “brace.”
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 type of appliance an orthodontist may use to move the teeth.
chain – A stretchable series of elastic o-rings connected together and placed around each bracket to hold the archwire in place and close the spaces between teeth. Also known as a “power chain.”
decalcification (deminerialization) – White marks on the teeth that can become cavities in the future. They are caused by poor brushing and the consumption of sugary and acidic drinks.
elastics – Rubber bands. During certain stages of treatment, small elastics or rubber bands are worn to provide individual tooth movement or jaw alignment.
facebow – An orthodontic appliance worn with orthodontic headgear, used primarily 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.
fixed appliances – An orthodontic appliance that is bonded or cemented to the teeth and cannot be or should not be removed by the patient.
functional appliances – A type of orthodontic appliance that uses jaw movement and muscle action to place selective force on the teeth and jaws. They are usually removable. They are also known as orthopedic appliances with names such as orthopedic corrector, activator, bionator, Frankel, Herbst or twin block appliances.
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 to widen the upper jaw at the same time.
ligature – A tiny rubber band, or sometimes a very thin wire, that holds the orthodontic wire in the bracket slot/brace.
palatal expander – A fixed or removable device used to make the upper jaw wider.
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 or aligner therapy is complete. A retainer is fitted to upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in their finished positions. When worn as prescribed, retainers are the best tool available to minimize unwanted tooth movement after active treatment ends.
rubber bands – During certain stages of treatment, small elastics (rubber bands) are worn to provide individual tooth movement or jaw alignment.
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 placed on the 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.
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.
wax – Orthodontic wax is placed on the brackets or archwires to prevent them from irritating the lips or cheeks.