Braces Glossary

When I get emergency calls, patients don't often know the names of what's broken in their mouth.  This Orthodontic glossary might help patients better communicate what's wrong.  Here's a great Ortho terminology guide I got from the 3M Orthodontic website to get you started:

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.

Arch
Upper or lower jaw.

Archwire
The metal wire that is attached to the brackets and used to move the teeth.

Band
The metal ring that is cemented to a tooth for strength and anchorage.

Bond
The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.

Braces
A word commonly used to describe an orthodontic appliance, usually either brackets, bands and wires.

Bracket
Brackets are connected to the bands, or directly bonded on the teeth, and hold the archwire in place.

Bruxism
Grinding the teeth, usually during sleeping. Bruxism can cause abnormal tooth wear and may lead to pain in the jaw joints.

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.

Cephalometric Radiograph
A lateral (side view) x-ray of the head.

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.

Congenitally Missing Teeth
A genetic occurrence in which the expected number of permanent teeth do not develop.

Crossbite
Upper posterior (back) teeth are in crossbite if they erupt and function inside or outside of the arch in the lower posterior teeth. Lower anterior (front) teeth are I crossbite if they erupt and function in front of the upper anterior teeth. A crossbite can be individual teeth or groups of teeth.

DDS or DMD
DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are equivalent degrees, according to The American Dental Association. All orthodontists educated in the U.S. or Canada will have either a DDS or DMD after their names. Orthodontists have an additional two to three years of specialty education in an accredited orthodontic residency program after dental school to become orthodontists.

Diagnostic Records
The material and information that the orthodontist needs to properly diagnose and plan a patient's treatment. Diagnostic records may include a thorough patient health history, a visual examination of the teeth and supporting structures, plaster models of the teeth, a wax bite registration, extraoral and intraoral photographs, a panoramic and a cephalometric radiograph.

Eruption
The process by which teeth enter into the mouth.

Extraction
The removal of a tooth.

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.

Flossing
An important part of daily home dental care. Flossing removes plaque and food debris from between the teeth, brackets and wires. Flossing keeps teeth and gums clean and healthy during orthodontic treatment.

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.

Gingiva
Soft tissue around the teeth, also known as the gums.

Gummy Smile
Showing an excessive amount of gingival (gum) tissue above the front teeth when smiling.

Headgear
An appliance worn outside of the mouth to provide traction for growth modification and tooth movement.

Impaction
A tooth that does not erupt into the mouth or only erupts partially is considered impacted.

Interceptive Treatment
Orthodontic treatment performed to intercept a developing problem. Usually performed on younger patients that have a mixture of primary (baby) teeth and permanent teeth.

Interproximal Reduction
Removal of a small amount of enamel from between the teeth to reduce their width. Also known as reproximation, slenderizing, stripping, enamel reduction or selective reduction.

Labial
The surface of the teeth in both arches that faces the lips.

Ligating Modules
A small elastic o-ring, shaped like a donut, used to hold the archwire in the bracket.

Lingual
The tongue side of the teeth in both arches.

Lip Bumper
A wire appliance used to move the lower molars back and the lower front teeth forward, creating room for crowded front teeth. The lip bumper is an internal wire bow that attaches to the buccal tubes on the cheek side of the lower molar bands inside the mouth. The front portion of the bow has an acrylic pad or bumper that rests against the inside of the lower lip. The lower lip muscles apply pressure to the bumper creating a force that moves the molars back.

Malocclusion
The term used in orthodontics to describe teeth that do not fit together properly. From Latin, the term means "bad bite."

Mandible
Lower jaw.

Maxilla
Upper jaw.

Mixed Dentition
The dental developmental stage in children (approximately ages 6-12) when they have a mix of primary (baby) and permanent teeth.

Mouthguard
A removable device used to protect the teeth and mouth from injury caused by sporting activities. The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients.

Nightguard
A removable appliance worn at night to help an individual minimize the damage or wear while clenching or grinding teeth during sleep.

Open Bite
A malocclusion in which teeth do not make contact with each other. With an anterior open bite, the front teeth do not touch when the back teeth are closed together. With a posterior open bite, the back teeth do not touch when the front teeth are closed together.

Orthodontics
The specialty area of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis, supervision, guidance and correction of malocclusions. The formal name of the specialty is orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.

Orthodontist
A specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are required to complete college requirements, graduate from an accredited dental school and successfully complete a minimum of two academic years of full-time, university-based study at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have completed this education may call themselves "orthodontists." Orthodontists limit their practice to orthodontic treatment only unless they have training in another dental specialty. Only residency-certified orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Panoramic Radiograph
An x-ray that shows all the teeth and both jaws on one film.

Palatal Expander
A fixed or removable device used to make the upper jaw wider.

Periodontal
Refers to the hard and soft tissue, or supporting structures, around the teeth.

Plaque
Plaque is a colorless, sticky film of bacteria, food particles and saliva that constantly forms in the mouth. Plaque combines with sugars to form an acid that endangers teeth and gums. Plaque causes tooth decay and gum disease.

Posterior
Back.

Preventive Treatment
Orthodontic treatment to prevent or reduce the severity of a developing malocclusion (bad bite).

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.

Safety Strap
The safety strap prevents the facebow of the headgear from coming loose and causing injury.

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.

Tongue Thrust
An individual's tongue pushes against the teeth when swallowing. Forces generated by the tongue can move the teeth and bone and may lead to an anterior or posterior open bite.

Wax
Wax is placed on the brackets or archwires to prevent them from irritating the lips or cheeks.

Wires
Also known as archwires, they are held in the brackets using small elastic o-rings or stainless steel wire ligatures. Wires are used to move the teeth.

If you're visual, I wrote a blog that includes a diagram that shows the most common orthodontic appliances:  https://www.kaportho.com/blog/2017/12/18/learning-the-parts-of-your-braces/

Information provided by the American Association of Orthodontists .

 

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