Orthodontic Terms

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Here is a list of common orthodontic terms. Knowing them will help you understand the treatment process.


Archwire - the main wire that is attached to the brackets and guides tooth movement.

Auxiliaries - small pins or springs that fit into braces to help move a single tooth.



Band - a ring of metal made to fit around an individual tooth. Usually they are only used on molars.

Bond - the seal created by orthodontic cement to a tooth.

Bonding Adhesive - a special adhesive used to affix a bracket to a tooth.

Bracket - the brace that is attached to the tooth. Holds the archwire in place and controls tooth movement during treatment.

Buccal Tube - a tube that is attached to the molar bands into which the archwire and sometimes headgear are inserted.



Cement - a special adhesive used to hold a band onto the tooth.

Closed Bite - a condition in which the upper teeth cover the lower teeth when biting down.

Crossbite - a condition in which some of the upper teeth are inside the lower teeth when biting down.

Crowding - too many teeth in too small a place.



Dentition - the arrangement of the teeth.

Drift - unwanted movement of teeth.



Elastics (also called Rubber Bands) - small bands that are hooked from one tooth to another.

Elastic Thread - a small strip of rubber covered with nylon thread. Usually left in place until the next appointment.



Face Bow - two connected, curved wires that insert into molar tubes and rest outside of the mouth.



Headgear - a cap or strap that fits over the head and connects to teeth by inserting wires into molar tubes.

Head Plate - a large X-ray that shows teeth in relationship to the bones in the head.



Impression - a mold that is made of the teeth when the patient bites into a modeling solution that has been placed in a special holding tray.

Impression Tray - a mouth-shaped tray that holds impression material.

Intermaxillary Hook - a small additional hook placed on the archwire. Used to hold elastics.



Ligatures - elastic circles that hold the archwire onto individual brackets.

Lingual Button or Hook - a small projection on the tongue side of a band. Used to hold small wires or rubber bands.



Malocclusion - poor positioning of the teeth.

Model - a plaster cast made of the patient’s teeth for treatment purposes.



Occlusion - the alignment and spacing of upper and lower teeth when biting down.

Open Bite - a condition in which the teeth do not close together when biting down.

Overbite - a condition in which the upper teeth overlap vertically over the lower teeth.

Overjet - a condition in which the upper teeth overlap horizontally over the lower teeth.



Palatal Expander - a device used to widen the jaw to create additional room for teeth.



Retainer - a hard plastic appliance used to hold the teeth in place following the removal of braces.

Rotation - the action of turning a tooth along its long axis.



Separators/Spacers - small pieces of rubber placed between teeth to create room for bands to be installed.



Tipping - the action of moving a tooth from side to side.

Torquing - the action of moving a tooth forward and backward.

Torquing Auxiliary - a small, multi-looped wire that is usually applied to the four upper front teeth during the final stage of treatment.

Typodont - a plastic model that shows the alignment of teeth.


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