Glossary of terms
do you speak ortho?
Learn the lingo to better understand the details of your treatment.
Any device used to change the position of the teeth or jaws or to influence growth.
A special U-shaped metallic alloy that attaches to orthodontic brackets to guide tooth movement.
A piece of shaped metal or ceramic that is affixed to each tooth. This is the “handle” that allows us to grab onto and control the movement of each tooth, individually.
Clear orthodontic appliances, such as Invisalign, that can move teeth just like braces.
An abnormal relationship between opposing teeth, in which the upper teeth fit inside (posterior crossbite) or behind (anterior crossbite) the lower teeth.
Excessive vertical overlap (overbite) where the upper front teeth completely or mostly cover the lower front teeth; the lower front teeth may bite into the gums behind the upper front teeth.
A 3D scan made with a very small but extremely high-tech camera. Used to make retainer, appliances and clear aligners such as Invisalign instead of traditional dental impressions (molds).
A small but extremely accurate camera that captures a 3D image of the teeth and gums without radiation. Is used instead of traditional dental impressions (molds).
Orthodontic treatment started while the patient is still in the transitional or primary dentition, before all the permanent teeth have erupted; also called interceptive orthodontic treatment or Phase I treatment.
Rubber bands that help move teeth in certain directions; usually attach to hooks on the brackets or the archwires.
An appliance that is used to aid in the forward movement of the upper teeth and/or jaw; often used when an anterior crossbite is present.
An orthodontic appliance whose attachments are bonded or cemented to the teeth and cannot be removed by the patient; AKA “braces”.
The surgical removal or repositioning of the frenum (the attachment of the upper lip to the gums, between the upper front teeth); often done when a diastema (space) was present between the upper front teeth before treatment, in order to enhance the stability of the closure of the diastema.
Orthodontic appliances, either fixed or removable, which utilize the muscle action of the patient to produce tooth or jaw movement; often used in an attempt to modify the growth of the mandible; Herbst appliance is an example.
Treatment designed to prevent potentially damaging habits, usually involving thumb or finger sucking or tongue thrusting; may also correct an irregularity of the teeth which had been caused by a habit; oral habit therapy or appliance therapy (or both) may be utilized for treatment.
A removable retainer used to stabilize teeth in their new positions after orthodontic treatment is complete; consists of acrylic (plastic) that covers the palate on the top jaw and the gums behind the lower teeth on the lower jaw and a metal wire that runs across the upper and lower front teeth; can also perform minor tooth movement with these retainers.
A metal bow which inserts into the upper molar bands, used in conjunction with a cloth strap that goes around the back of the neck or over the top of the head; used to move the upper teeth and/or upper jaw posteriorly (back) or to prevent their movement forward; AKA facebow.
An orthodontic appliance (fixed or removable) that serves to posture the mandible forward, in an attempt to modify the growth of the mandible; a type of functional appliance.
A tooth that will not erupt or grow into the mouth. Will remain stuck below the surface until there is treatment to correct it. Can sometimes cause damage to other teeth and the jaw bone.
A negative image of a tooth or dental arch; produced by placing an elastic compound like alginate in a metal or plastic tray and inserting the tray into the mouth around the teeth until the compound stiffens; when the impression is removed from the mouth, it is filled with plaster to produce an exact reproduction of the teeth or dental arch; used for diagnosis of orthodontic problems and for the fabrication of certain appliances. Can also be performed digitally with a digital intraoral scanner.
Orthodontic treatment started while the patient is still in the transitional or primary dentition, before all the permanent teeth have erupted; also called early orthodontic treatment or Phase I treatment.
An x-ray taken of the side of the face and skull in order to measure relationships of the teeth to the jaws and of the jaws to the skull; used for diagnosis of orthodontic problems.
The difference between the widths of the three posterior primary teeth (canine and two molars) and their permanent successors (canine and two premolars); if this space is maintained, it can be used to alleviate crowding in the anterior teeth.
A fixed orthodontic appliance that consists of a wire running along the tongue-side of the lower teeth and attaches to the lower back teeth (molars); used to maintain space during the transition from the primary teeth to the permanent teeth.
The developmental stage during which both primary and permanent teeth are present in the mouth; from approximately age 6 to age 12.
A removable plastic appliance that covers the teeth; worn during contact sports in order to protect the teeth and supporting jaw structures.
A round tie that secures the archwire within the bracket slot. Can be clear or colored.
A malocclusion in which the upper front teeth do not contact the lower front teeth; can place excessive pressure on the back teeth.
A dental specialist who has completed an advanced post-doctoral residency of at least two academic years in the area of orthodontics; a specialist in the movement of teeth as well as the growth and development of the teeth and facial structures.
Surgery performed when a discrepancy in the size and/or position of the jaws occurs; usually accomplished in conjunction with orthodontic therapy; AKA corrective jaw surgery.
An x-ray of both the upper and lower jaws, the teeth, and surrounding structures; AKA “pan”; used in the diagnosis of orthodontic problems.
A removable elastic orthodontic appliance molded to fit the teeth on a ‘setup’ made by repositioning the teeth from a plaster cast; typically used to achieve fine adjustments and retain corrected positions during the finishing stages of treatment.
A procedure using a fixed appliance, called an expander, to separate the two maxillary bones at the midline of the palate; used for the correction of a posterior crossbite; can either be banded or bonded to the teeth.
An orthodontic appliance that is not permanently attached to the teeth and is removable from the mouth; an example is a retainer.
An orthodontic appliance that is used to maintain the position of the teeth following orthodontic treatment; can be fixed or removable.
Small elastics placed between the back teeth that serve to make space for bands between the teeth.
An appliance that is used when a primary tooth is lost prematurely in order to prevent the closure of the space before the eruption of the permanent successor; also used to maintain leeway space.
One of the two paired joints between the mandible and the skull; located just in front of the ears.
Abnormal position of the tongue between the front teeth, especially during swallowing; can produce an openbite.