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Orthodontic Dictionary

Sequence Orthodontics, conveniently located in Waldorf and Leonardtown, and serving Charles County and St. Mary’s County, Maryland, is committed to providing effective patient education for those with orthodontic problems, including the below list of commonly used orthodontic terms.

Common Orthodontic Terms

The following are the most commonly used terms in orthodontics. These terms are defined for you in order to provide you with some background information to help you better understand your orthodontic treatment.

Anterior Teeth: The upper and lower six front teeth on each arch.

Appliance: Any orthodontic device that is used to move or retain teeth. Appliances may also be used to alter the positioning of the jaw.

Arch: The entire upper or lower jaw.

Archwire: The metal wire that is used to connect orthodontic brackets. This wire is essential in guiding the teeth into proper alignment.

Band with bracket: Metal bands (rings) that are usually bonded to the back teeth.

Braces: Fixed orthodontic appliances, usually made of ceramic or metal, and consisting of brackets and wire designed to align teeth.

Brackets: The tiny metal, ceramic or clear plastic supports that are affixed to each individual tooth on the arch.

Brushing: This is a crucial aspect of proper oral hygiene. Orthodontists stress that those who wear braces should brush after every meal and snack in order to effectively eliminate bacteria and plaque and prolong the life of the braces.

Buccal: The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the lower and upper arches.

Cephalometric Radiograph: A side X-ray of the face and head that is used to observe growth and development.

Chain: Elastics connected together and placed around the brackets to stabilize the archwire and gently close spaces.

Class I Malocclusion: A condition in which molars are correctly aligned, but there is an anterior/posterior crossbite, an open bite or overcrowding on the arches.

Class II Malocclusion: Also known as an overbite. This condition is characterized by the positioning of the upper front teeth further forward than the lower teeth.

Class III Malocclusion: Also known as an underbite. This condition is characterized by the positioning of the lower front teeth further forward than the upper teeth.

Closed Bite: The upper front teeth completely overlap the bottom teeth causing a deep overbite.

Congenitally Missing Teeth: Some permanent teeth fail to develop and erupt due to hereditary factors.

Crossbite: A malocclusion in which the upper back teeth bite inside or outside the lower back teeth, or the lower front teeth bite in front of the upper front teeth.

De-banding: The removal of orthodontic bands from the teeth.

De-bonding: The removal of affixed orthodontic brackets from the teeth.

Diagnostic Records: Records that are used to assess, plan and implement treatments. These records usually include medical and dental history, radiographs, panoramic radiographs, bite molds and intraoral/extraoral photographs.

Digital Radiograph: Digital X-rays of the teeth that can be viewed, stored and transmitted via computer.

Elastics: Some braces may require the use of elastic rubber bands to exert additional pressure to an individual tooth or a group of teeth.

Eruption: The process of teeth emerging through the gums and surfacing inside the mouth.

Fixed Orthodontic Appliances: These refer to orthodontic appliances that are bonded to the teeth and are typically removed by the orthodontist at the end of treatment.

Flossing: An essential aspect of proper dental hygiene that removes debris and plaque from above and below the gumline.

Functional Appliances: Orthodontic appliances that utilize the movement of muscles created by swallowing, eating and speaking to gently move and align the teeth and jaws.

Gingiva: The gums and soft tissue around the teeth.

Headgear: A removable orthodontic appliance comprised of a brace and external archwire. This device is used to modify growth and promote tooth movement.

Impressions: Impressions are taken of the patient’s teeth to allow the orthodontist to see exactly how a patient’s teeth fit together.

Interceptive Treatment: Early orthodontic treatment performed on children who have a mixture of adult and baby teeth. Early treatment may help prevent more aggressive orthodontic treatment in the future.

Invisalign®: A new, removable clear plastic dental aligner that is nearly invisible and doesn’t interfere with eating because it’s removable. Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

Ligating Modules: An elastic donut-shaped ring which is used to secure the archwire to the bracket.

Ligation: The act of securing the archwire to the brackets.

Lingual Side: The side of the teeth that is closest to the tongue in both arches.

Malocclusion: A term that literally means “bad bite” in Latin, and refers to teeth that do not fit together correctly.

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Mouthguard: A removable plastic or rubber device that protects teeth and braces from sporting injuries.

Open Bite: A condition in which the upper and lower teeth fail to come together. This type of malocclusion is generally classified as anterior or posterior.

Orthodontics: The unique and specialized branch of dentistry that focuses on diagnosis, prevention and correction of malocclusions and irregularities in the jaw.

Orthodontist: A dental specialist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of jaw irregularities and malocclusions. Orthodontists must complete two to three additional years of specialized study after dental school, as well as a full a residency program in order to become licensed as an orthodontist.

Palatal Expander: A device designed to expand the palate in order create room for teeth to alleviate crowding on either the upper or lower arch. These devices may be removable or fixed.

Panoramic Radiograph: An external X-ray that shows the teeth and jaws.

Plaque: A sticky film of saliva, food particles, and bacteria that forms on teeth and contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.

Posterior Teeth: Back teeth.

Removable Appliance: An orthodontic appliance or device that may be removed and reinserted by the patient. These devices must be worn for the prescribed length of time every day in order to be effective.

Separators: A wire loop or elastic ring that is placed between teeth to create space for subsequent placement of bands or braces.

Space Maintainer: A fixed appliance used to hold space for permanent teeth. This device may be used when a baby tooth has been lost earlier than anticipated.

Wax: Orthodontic relief wax is a home care remedy that is recommended by many orthodontists to alleviate irritations in the mouth caused by braces.

Wires: Wires are attached to the brackets of braces in order to gently move the teeth into proper alignment.

What Should I Do Next?

Our orthodontic dictionary is provided as a patient education service. If you need more information, please contact our office. At Sequence Orthodontics, conveniently located in Waldorf and Leonardtown, and serving Charles County and St. Mary’s County, Maryland, we believe an informed patient has the highest likelihood of achieving optimal results!