Glossary of Orthodontic Terms1
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.
archwire – The metal wire that is attached to the brackets and used to move the teeth. They are held in the brackets using small elastic o-rings, stainless steel wire ligatures, or self-ligating doors and clips. Wires are used to move the teeth.
band – The metal ring that is cemented around a tooth for strength and anchorage.
braces – A word commonly used to describe a fixed orthodontic appliance, usually comprised of brackets, bands and wires.
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.
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.
demineralization – A loss of calcium from the hydroxyl-apatite crystals, which leaves the tooth more vulnerable to further bacterial attack.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
ligature ties – A small elastic o-ring or stainless steel tie used to hold the archwire in the bracket.
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. 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.
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.
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 – Wax is placed on the brackets or archwires to prevent them from irritating the lips or cheeks.