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Orthodontic Glossary

Orthodontic Glossary




The tweaking of oral appliances. This may include wires, spacers, bands, or any number of other procedures.


Anything the orthodontist attaches to your teeth to aid in the process of straightening or correcting.


This wire is attached to your teeth and is designed to move your teeth or change the shape of your jaw.


Small metal bands placed on the back molars that anchor a variety of orthodontic appliances to your teeth.


How your top and bottom teeth come together.


A small appliance bonded to the tooth with adhesive. Orthodontic wire fits into a bracket.


An oral prosthesis that fills in a gap between teeth. Surrounding teeth are fit with crowns, and a false tooth/teeth are supported by those crowns, creating a seamless "bridge" of teeth.


One of the most important parts of everyday dental hygiene. Brushing helps to protect your gums, tongue, teeth, and overall oral health. Brushing can prevent gum disease, plaque build-up, bad breath, and keeps your teeth pearly white and healthy.


A thin piece of stretchable plastic that secures archwires into brackets and helps to move teeth.


A crown acts as a replacement for a tooth that may be badly decayed, damaged, or misshapen. Crowns may last for several years but are not a permanent solution.


The breakdown of teeth as the result of poor oral hygiene practices. Drinking or eating beverages and food high in sugar and acid can also cause decalcification.


A medical professional specializing in oral health and teeth. Dentists cover a wide variety of needs, including crowns, fillings, veneers, and cleanings as well as basic orthodontics.


Small rubber bands hooked to key points on orthodontic appliances like braces to help the wearer adjust an over or underbite.

Imprelon Retainer

A clear, wire-free retainer that fits over the entire arch of your bite. Similar to an aligner, but not the same, this device helps keep teeth from shifting back into improper positions.


The hard outer coating of bone that protects your teeth from decay. If tooth enamel is eroded and broken down, it does not regenerate.

Transpalatal Arch (TPA)

A stainless steel bar that rests against the roof (palate) of the mouth designed to slowly push a patient’s molars into alignment.


The removal of a tooth. This may be necessary if a tooth has significantly decayed, or if a tooth must be removed to make room for other teeth (as in the removal of wisdom teeth).

Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is also called a bonded or a permanent retainer. This type of retainer is fixed to the back of the teeth with a strong adhesive. As is such, it's hidden from view. A fixed retainer can remain in place indefinitely.


Like brushing, this is an important part of daily dental hygiene. Flossing removes plaque and food from between your teeth or other dental appliances. Flossing is essential to gum health.


Forsus or forsus springs are an orthodontic appliance designed to correct an overbite. Consisting of a small telescopic rod and tightly coiled springs, this device applies gentle pressure on the lower jaw, slowly aligning the patient’s bite.


A small fold of tissue that secures a mobile organ in place. In dentistry, the frenum keeps your tongue and lips connected to your jaws/lips.


A mild type of gum disease, typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits. Gingivitis causes irritated, swollen gums, and may cause gums to bleed during normal oral hygiene practices.

Habit Appliance

An array of dental appliances affixed to either the bottom or roof of the mouth designed to help children break dental-damaging habits like thumb sucking.

Hawley Retainer

The most common type of retainer. A Hawley retainer is made of wire and hard plastic or acrylic and can be removed. They're typically used after braces are removed to keep teeth from shifting back into poor positions.

Head Gear

There are three different types of headgear that orthodontists often employ: Cervical Pull, High Pull, and Reverse Pull.


A cervical pull assists in correcting malocclusions and wraps around the neck or cervical vertebrae


A high pull apparatus is similar but attaches to the upper jaw and back of the head.


A reverse pull is used to treat an underbite and is a facemask-style appliance that pulls the jaw forward.

Herbst Appliance

An orthodontic apparatus designed to help a patient’s bite fit together properly. Affixed to the top and lower jaw, this device both pulls and pushes the top and bottom of your jaw into alignment with gentle pressure.


A tooth that doesn't come through the gums, or does so only partially. Impacted teeth often need to be surgically removed.


An impression is a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will have you bite down into soft rubber-like material to create the impression.


One of several brands of clear-aligner treatments. Some patients choose to use these instead of braces. They're made of transparent plastic and are removable.


A small rubber band or wire that holds the wire for braces in place.

Lingual Holding Arch

Similar to a TPA, a lingual holding arch is designed to help move the molars in the lower half of your mouth and from keeping them from moving out of place.

Lip Bumper

An oral appliance that relies on the pressure of your lower lip to move the lower molars back, and the lower front teeth forward. This creates room for crowded front teeth.

MARA Appliance

MARA stands for Mandibular Anterior Repositioning Appliance. This device is a fixed orthodontic device that works to move a patient’s lower jaw forward with the intent of correcting the bite.


A removable and reusable device used to protect the mouth during sports or other activities.


A device that lessens the effects of teeth grinding during sleep.


A tiny rubber band available in a variety of colors that holds the archwire to the bracket. These are usually changed during adjustment appointments.


A dentist who specializes in treating irregularities in both teeth and the jaw.


When the upper front teeth greatly overlap the bottom teeth.

Palatal Expander (RPE)

A device that widens the upper jaw. It can be fixed or removable.


A sticky, gummy film that constantly coats the mouth. Comprised of bacteria, food particles, and saliva, plaque can cause cavities, decalcification, or gum disease.

Primary Teeth

Your primary teeth are your first set of teeth. Commonly called baby teeth.

Removable Retainer

A retainer that is not fixed or bonded to the teeth. It can be removed at any time.


A device used to keep teeth from shifting after the removal of braces. It can be fixed or removable.


Small elastic or metal spacers placed between select teeth to prepare them for wearing traditional braces. Separators may cause a tight or sore sensation that subsides over a few days.


When the bottom jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw.


A thin shell glued to the outside of the teeth to improve the appearance of one's smile.


Orthodontists take a variety of x-rays to help them get a better view of your mouth and how your jaw and teeth are aligned.

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