Glossary of Orthodontic Terms

Arch Wire

A metal wire which is attached to your brackets to move your teeth


A metal ring that is usually placed on your teeth on parts of your braces.


A metal or ceramic part that is glued onto a tooth and serves as a means of fastening the archwire.


A breakaway is a small plastic piece with an internal spring, which is used to provide force on a facebow.

Buccal Tubes

These hold the ends of the archwires in place.

Elastic Power Chains

Power chains are used to close spaces between your teeth. Power chains are stretched over your brackets in your choice of color.


Another word for elastics are ‘rubberbands’ (not to be confused with ‘ties’). They hook on braces to move teeth toward each other. Elastics come in many colors.

Facebow, Headgear

A Facebow is a wire apparatus used to move your upper molars back in your mouth which creates room for crowded or protrusive anterior teeth. Generally, the facebow consists of two metal parts which have been attached together. The inner part is shaped like a horseshoe. This part goes in your mouth and is connected to your buccal tubes. The outer part has two curves. The curves go around your face and connect to the breakaways or high pull headgear. To properly use the product, the inner bow needs to be inserted into your buccal tubes. Completing the apparatus is a plastic safety strap that is placed over the neck band and onto the outer bow of the headgear.

Headgear Tubes

These allow the headgear appliance to be put on and taken off. The metal part of the headgear slides in and out of the headgear tube.

Ligating Module

A small plastic piece, shaped like a donut, which is used to hold the arch wires in the brackets on your teeth.

Lip Bumper

A lip bumper is used to push the molars on your lower jaw back to create more space for other teeth. The lip bumper consists of an arch wire, which is attached to a molded piece of plastic. You mount the arch wire in the buccal tubes on your lower jaw, the plastic piece rests against your lips. When you eat or talk, you push the plastic piece back, which in turn pushes your molars back.

Mouth Guard

A device that is used to protect your mouth from injury when you are participating in sports. The use of a mouth guard is especially important for orthodontic patients, to prevent injuries.

Neck Pad

A neck pad is a cloth-covered cushion which you wear around your neck when you put on your facebow. Generally, the breakaways are attached to the neckpad to provide force for the facebow.

Palatal Expander

A device used to make your jaw wider. Retainer. Any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain the position of the teeth following corrective treatment.

Safety Strap

A plastic strap which prevents a facebow from coming loose and hurting you.


We use separators to create space between your teeth. Separators are small elastics placed in front of the molars in the same area dental floss is placed.

Springs or Coils

These push or pull on the brackets to change the space between the teeth.


Rubber rings (not to be confused with ‘rubberbands’ or ‘elastics’). They come in many colors. Ties fasten archwires to brackets.


A clear wax used to prevent your braces from irritating your lips when your braces are first put on, or at other times.

Bad Oral Hygiene Terms

Advanced Periodontitis

Pockets of bacteria form and deepen beneath your gums, attacking and destroying the bone that anchors your teeth, and making even healthy teeth loosen and eventually fall out.


Permanent stains on your teeth. If you allow plaque to accumulate around your braces, it can leave permanent stains on your teeth and these lines and spots will remain on your teeth for life.


The first stage of periodontal disease, caused by the buildup of plaque. The plaque accumulation irritates the gums around your teeth, leading to bleeding and swelling.


Overtime, plaque buildup may harden into a substance called tartar. As tartar accumulates, a condition called periodontitis will develop, causing a gap to form between your gums and teeth where even more tartar can accumulate.

Malocclusion (Bad Bites) Terms

Crossbite of Back Teeth

Top teeth are to the inside of the bottom teeth.

Crossbite of Front Teeth

Top teeth are behind bottom teeth.


Top teeth are to the inside of the bottom teeth.

Open Bite

Front teeth do not meet when back teeth are closed.


The upper teeth overlap the lower teeth too much. The lower front teeth may hit the roof of your mouth when you chew.


Teeth are pushed or thrust outward or forward.


The lower teeth sit in front of upper teeth when back teeth are closed.

Orthodontic Procedures Terms


The process of cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.


The process of attaching brackets to your teething using a special safe glue.

Cephalometric X-rays

An x-ray of the head that shows whether your teeth are aligned properly, and whether they are growing properly.


A meeting with your orthodontist where he/she discusses your treatment plan.


The removal of cemented orthodontic bands.


The removal of cemented orthodontic brackets.

Extraoral Photography

Facial photos. Impressions. The first step in making a model of your teeth. You bite into a container filled with a rubber-type material, and that material hardens to produce a mold of your teeth.

Interceptive Treatment

Orthodontic treatment that is usually done when patients are 6-10 years of age. The objective of interceptive orthodontic treatment is to expand your palate and make other corrections so that your later orthodontic treatment goes quicker and is less painful.


An adjective used to describe components used to attach arch wires to brackets. For example, a ligating module is a small plastic piece that goes over the brackets to hold in your arch wires.


A process where an arch wire is attached to the brackets on your teeth.

Panoramic X-ray

An x-ray taken by a machine that rotates around your head to give the orthodontist a picture of your teeth, jaws and other important information.

Records Appointment

One of the initial appointments with your orthodontist. The orthodontist or his/her assistant takes pictures of you, x-rays, and impressions so that they can figure out what treatment needs to be done.


A process which occurs every 3-6 weeks when you have braces. You go into the orthodontist’s office and the orthodontist either makes adjustments to the wires in your braces, or changes the wires.

Wax Bite

A procedure to measure how well your teeth come together. You bite a sheet of wax and leave bite marks in the wax. This helps the orthodontist relate the upper and lower models of your teeth together.