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Ortho Dictionary

Get familiar with some of the terms in orthodontics

Parts of Braces

  • Appliance: Anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth which moves your teeth or changes the shape of your jaw.
  • Archwire: The metal wire that acts as a track to guide your teeth along as they move. It is changed periodically throughout treatment as your teeth move to their new positions.
  • Band: A metal ring that is cemented to your tooth and goes completely around your tooth. Not used except in the back of your mouth for certain situations.
  • Bond: The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.
  • Bracket: A metal or ceramic part cemented (“bonded”) to your tooth that holds your archwire in place.
  • Coil Spring: A spring that fits between your brackets and over your archwire to open space between your teeth.
  • Elastic (Rubber Band): A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance to provide pressure to move your teeth to their new position.
  • Elastic Tie: The rubber band that fits around your bracket to hold the archwire in place. They come in a variety of colors. (with self-ligating brackets you don’t have elastic ties)
  • Headgear: Headgear uses an external wire apparatus known as a facebow to gently guide the growth of your face and jaw by moving your teeth into proper position. The force is applied to the facebow by a spring-loaded neck strap or head strap. The straps have a safety release that disconnects if the facebow is pulled or snagged.
  • Headgear Tube: A round, hollow attachment on your back bands. The inner bow of your headgear fits into it.
  • Hook: A welded or removable arm to which elastics are attached.
  • Ligature: A thin wire that holds your archwire into your bracket. Not used with self-ligating brackets.
  • Lip Bumper: A lip bumper is an archwire attached to a molded piece of plastic. The lip bumper holds back the molars on your lower jaw to provide more space for your other teeth.
  • Mouthguard: A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.
  • Palatal Expander: A device that makes your upper jaw wider.
  • Retainer: An appliance that is worn after your braces are removed, the retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in place. Some retainers are removable and others are bonded to the tongue-side of several teeth.
  • Self Ligating bracket: A bracket that has a slot or a door to retain the archwire. Does not require ligatures or elastic ties, and allow the bracket to slide over the wire with less friction.
  • Separator (or Spacer): A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth before the bands are attached.
  • Tie Wire: A fine wire that is twisted around your bracket to hold the archwire in place.
  • Wax: Wax is used to stop your braces from irritating your lips.

Orthodontic Procedures

  • Banding: The process of fitting and cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.
  • Bonding: The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using special orthodontic cement.
  • Cephalometic X-ray: An x-ray of your head which shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws, and teeth.
  • Consultation: A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss a treatment plan.
  • Debanding: The process of removing cemented orthodontic bands from your teeth.
  • Debonding: The process of removing cemented orthodontic brackets from your teeth.
  • Impressions: The process of making a model of your teeth by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.
  • Invisalign®: An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear custom-molded aligners. Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems.
  • Ligation: The process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on your teeth.
  • Panoramic X-ray: An x-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw and other facial areas.