Orthodontic Terminology

Every profession has its own jargon! Here is a quick list of terms you may hear used at your orthodontist’s office. Hopefully this helps you better understand what is going on during your treatment. 

Adjustment – a quick visit to check on your progress and “tighten” the braces

Archwire – the thin metal wire attached to all of the brackets

Appliance – any device that the orthodontist cements in your mouth to change your teeth 

Bonding – the process of gluing on brackets 

Bracket – the small metal items bonded to each individual tooth

Crossbite – when the upper teeth fit inside or behind the lower teeth

Crowding – when the teeth are crooked due to lack of space

Deep bite – when the front top teeth cover a significant portion of the front bottom teeth

Diastema – a gap between the two front top teeth

Elastics – small rubber bands worn to correct the bite

Essix – material used to make a clear retainer

Gingiva – gums

Hawley – retainer that has hard acrylic on the palate and a metal bar across the front teeth

Mandible – lower jaw

Maxilla – upper jaw

Open bite – when biting down, the back teeth touch, but the front teeth do not

Overbite – overlap of the upper front teeth over the lower front teeth

Overjet – horizontal protrusion of upper front teeth in front of lower front teeth

Power chain – powerful and stretchy connected links that wrap around brackets to close spaces, comes in lots of colors

Retainer – appliance that preserves your straight teeth after you are done with braces

Separator – small rubber band placed in between teeth in preparation for cementing an appliance such as an expander

Supernumerary tooth – an extra tooth

TMJ – temporomandibular joint – one of two joints between mandible and skull, located in front of ears

Tongue thrust – a habit of abnormally positioning the tongue during swallowing that can cause an open bite 

Underbite – when the lower front teeth are positioned in front of the upper front teeth

If you don’t understand a term that your orthodontist uses, just ask! Dr. Peterson is always happy to educate patients. See you at your next adjustment!