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Home > Dental Treatments > Dental Braces  > A Guide to Orthodontic Braces Terms
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A Guide to Orthodontic Braces Terms


Here are some key terms to know for your visit to the orthodontist:

Parts of Braces

An easy-to-understand guide of orthodontic terms.

Appliance: Anything a dentist, oral surgeon or orthodontist attaches to your teeth to move them or to change the shape of your jaw.

Arch wire: A metal wire that is attached to the brackets that move your teeth.

Band: A metal ring that is placed on some teeth to hold wires or other parts of braces.

Biteplane: A removable appliance made of acrylic designed to open a deep bite.

Bracket: A metal or ceramic fixture that is bonded onto a tooth. It serves as a way of connecting the arch wire to the teeth.

Buccal tube: A small metal tube that is welded to the outside of a molar band. The buccal tube is a slot to hold arch wires, lip bumpers, headgears and other things your dentist uses to move teeth.

Chain: A stretchable elastic chain used to hold arch wires into brackets and to move teeth.

Headgear: A headgear is a wire apparatus used to move the upper molars back in the arch to create room for crowded or protruded front teeth. The headgear has two metal arcs that have been soldered. The inner arc goes in the mouth and is connected to the buccal tubes. The outer arc goes around the face, and connects to a pad with springs and a plastic safety strap that goes around the neck, or to a higher pull headgear that goes on top of the head. The inner bow is inserted into the buccal tubes, and the plastic strap is attached to both sides of the outer bow of the headgear.

Hook: The place on the bracket or band where the elastics are attached.

Ligature: A small elastic, shaped like a donut, which is used to hold the arch wires in the brackets.

Lip bumper: A lip bumper is used to move the lower molars back to create space for other teeth. The lip bumper consists of a metal arc that has plastic mold attached to the front. The wire is placed into the buccal tubes on the lower molars, while the plastic mold lies behind the lips. Pressure from the lip pushes the wire to move the molars back.

Mouth guard: A soft rubber form that covers the teeth to prevent injury while playing sports. All children playing sports should wear a mouth guard.

Neck pad: A neck pad is a cloth-covered cushion that is worn around the neck with a headgear.

Nickel Titanium or (NiTi): An especially flexible orthodontic wire which allows for tooth movement over a longer period.

Palatal Expander: A fixed or removable appliance that is used to make the upper jaw wider.

Retainer: A plastic appliance that can be used to move teeth, or to wear after orthodontic treatment. The retainer attaches to the upper or lower teeth and helps them settle into a stable position. Retainers are worn full time at first and then at night only.

Separator: A rubber or metal part that creates space between teeth that will receive orthodontic bands. Wax is used to prevent braces from irritating lips or cheeks when braces are first put on.

Orthodontic Instruments

Band remover: A special plier that is used to remove orthodontic bands from teeth.

Band pusher: An instrument that helps the dentist fit the band to the tooth.

Bite stick: A device the dentist uses to help put on bands. The band is placed on the tooth and the patient bites on the bite stick to help seat the band.

Cheek retractors: Small plastic pieces used to hold back the lips and cheeks for photographs.

Curing light: A special high intensity light used to cure the bonding material that holds the bracket to your tooth.

Distal end cutter: A special plier used to cut off the ends of arch wires while in the mouth.

Explorer: A hook-like fine pointed instrument used in examining the teeth.

Interproximal stripper: A device used to remove enamel from between teeth to create extra space for crowded teeth.

Pin and ligature cutter: A special plier used to cut arch wires, ligatures, etc.

Scaler: A tool with a curved sharp hook on one end used to remove excess cement.

Orthodontic Procedures

Banding: The process of cementing orthodontic bands on teeth.

Bonding: The process of attaching brackets to teeth using a special adhesive.

Cephalometric X-Rays: A lateral(side view) X-ray of the head that shows the alignment of the teeth, and the relationship of the teeth and jaw. It also shows any skeletal growth discrepancies.

Conditioning: A procedure where a solution is applied to the teeth to prepare them for brackets. The conditioning by the liquid assists with the bonding of brackets.

Debanding: The removal of the cemented orthodontic bands.

Debonding: The removal of the bonded brackets from your teeth.

Extraoral photograph: Facial photos.

Impressions: The office procedure to make models of teeth. A horseshoe-shaped tray is filled with alginate, a soft material that hardens on the teeth, and the tray is placed over the teeth. This results in an imprint of the teeth. A lab technician then pours plaster into the impression to produce the plaster models of teeth.

Interceptive/Preventive Orthodontics: Treatment usually done between the ages of four and eight. The goal of interceptive orthodontic treatment is to make corrections, so that later, orthodontic treatment is easier and less complicated.

Interproximal stripping: Removing enamel from the sides of some teeth. This procedure is performed to create space for crowded teeth.

Ligation: A process where an arch wire is "tied in" to the brackets on the teeth.

Orthodontics: The treatment performed to correct malocclusions and to give you a great smile.

Panoramic X-ray: An X-ray taken by a machine that rotates around the head and produces a picture of your teeth, jaws and other important information on one film.

Tightening braces: An appointment that occurs every four to six weeks. Adjustments, changes in the wires, and retying them are done.

Wax bite: A piece of wax is placed in the mouth and the patient bites into it. This enables the technician to take the models and relate the upper and lower impressions.

Orthodontic Terms

Arch form: The shape of the dental arch -- narrow, wide, tapered arch forms.

Closed bite: A malocclusion where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth vertically when closing. This is also called a "deep bite."

Crossbite: A malocclusion where some of the upper teeth are inside the lower teeth when they come together.

Crowding: A dental arch where the teeth are either too large, or there are too many teeth for the space.

Deep bite: Closed bite.

Diastema: A space between the two front teeth.

Flared teeth: Front teeth that are protruded. The upper teeth are flared labially (toward the lip).

Full orthodontic treatment: Full brackets on all the teeth.

Lingual appliances: Orthodontic brackets placed on the inside of the teeth. They are placed on the lingual part of your teeth, next to your tongue.

Lingual arch: An orthodontic wire attached from molar to molar on the inside of your teeth to hold space.

Lingual retainers: A lingual arch that goes from canine to canine (with bands or bonded) to keep the front teeth in place.

Malocclusion: Poor positioning of the teeth or jaw.

Stop: A bend or attachment placed on a wire to stop the arch wire from sliding or moving into the slot of the bracket.

Tracing (cephalometric): A drawing traced of a cephalometric X-ray that shows specific structures and landmarks that provided the basis for orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning.

Types of Malocclussions

Class I Malocclusion: A malocclusion where the jaw is fine, but teeth are crooked, crowded and out of position.

Class II Malocclusion: A malocclusion where the upper teeth stick out past the lower teeth. This is also called an "overbite."

Class III Malocclusion: A malocclusion where the lower teeth stick out past the upper teeth. This is also called an "under bite."

Open bite: A malocclusion in which the teeth do not close or come together in the front of your mouth.

Overbite: Vertical overlap of the upper teeth over the lower.

Overjet: Horizontal position of upper teeth past the lower.

Retruded: Upper jaw is in the proper position, but the lower jaw and teeth are excessively behind the upper teeth.

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