The orthodontic terms and abbreviations used by orthodontists can be confusing to new patients and parents. Understanding these terms can help you prepare questions you may have for your orthodontist about your treatment during your appointments. We’ve created a glossary of orthodontic terms that are commonly used.


Braces terms & Orthodontic Appliances

An appliance is anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth that moves your teeth or changes the shape of your jaw.

The metal wire in traditional braces that acts as a track to guide your teeth as they move. It is changed periodically throughout your orthodontic treatment as your teeth move to new positions.

A metal ring that is cemented to your tooth that envelopes the tooth completely. Bands provide a way to attach the brackets of your braces to your teeth and other appliances such as expanders and bite correcting springs. 

The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your orthodontic appliances in place. 

A metal or ceramic part of braces cemented (“bonded”) to your tooth that holds your archwire in place. 

A spring that fits between your braces’ brackets and over your archwire to open space between your teeth.

A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your orthodontic appliance to provide pressure to move your teeth to a new position.

The tiny rubber band that fits around your braces’ bracket to hold the archwire in place. They come in a variety of colors.

Headgear uses an external wire apparatus known as a facebow to guide the growth of your face and jaw gently by moving your teeth into proper position. The force is applied to the facebow by a spring-loaded neck strap or head strap. The straps have a safety release that disconnects if the facebow is pulled or snagged.

A round, hollow attachment on your back bands. The inner bow of your headgear fits into it. 

A welded or removable arm to which the elastics of braces are attached.

A thin wire that holds your braces’ archwire into your bracket.

A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.

A removable device that is worn at night to help reduce the damage done to the teeth by clenching or grinding during sleep.

A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that makes your upper jaw wider.

An orthodontic appliance that is worn after your braces are removed, the retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in place. Some orthodontic retainers are removable, while others are bonded to the tongue side of several teeth.

A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth before the bands are attached.

A fine wire that is twisted around your braces’ bracket to hold the archwire in place.

Wax is used to stop your braces from irritating your lips.

Orthodontic Procedures

Also known as brace adjustments, they allow the orthodontist to evaluate the progress of the treatment and determine if appliances need to be changed or tightened to keep the treatment moving forward.

The process of fitting and cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.

The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using special orthodontic cement.

An X-ray of your head that shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws, and teeth.

A misalignment of the teeth that causes the top front teeth to overlap excessively with the bottom teeth. When the top and bottom teeth do not come together correctly it can result in the teeth shifting out of place and excessive toothwear.

A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss a treatment plan.

The process of removing cemented orthodontic bands from your teeth.

The process of removing cemented orthodontic brackets from your teeth.

A model of your mouth made by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.

An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear, custom-molded aligners. Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems.

The orthodontic process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on your teeth.

An X-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw, and other facial areas.

Orthodontics Dictionary

Book a Consultation