Orthodontics Glossary

Appliance – anything the orthodontist attaches to your teeth to move your teeth or to change the shape of your jaw.


Archwire – a metal wire which is attached to your brackets to move your teeth.


Band – a metal ring that is usually placed on a tooth to hold on a part of your braces.

Banding – the process of cementing orthodontic bands to teeth.


Bonding – the process of attaching brackets to teeth using a special safe adhesive.


Bracket – a metal or ceramic part that is glued onto a tooth and serves as a means of fastening the archwire.

Breakaway – a small plastic piece with an internal spring which is used to provide force on a facebow.

Buccal Tube

Buccal Tube – a small metal part that is welded on the outside of a molar band. The molar band contains slots to hold archwires, lip bumpers, facebows, and other things your orthodontist uses to move your teeth.

Cephalometric X-Ray

Cephalometric X-Ray – a diagnostic image of the head that shows whether teeth are aligned properly and whether they are growing properly.

Chain – a stretchable plastic chain used to hold archwires into brackets and to move teeth.

Consultation – a meeting with the orthodontist in which she discusses your treatment plan.


Debanding – the removal of cemented orthodontic bands.

Debonding – the removal of cemented orthodontic brackets.

Extra-oral Photographs – facial photos.


Facebow (or Headgear) – a wire apparatus used to move your upper molars back in your mouth to create room for crowded or protrusive anterior teeth. Generally, the facebow consists of two metal parts which have been attached to one another. The inner part is shaped like a horseshoe. This part goes in your mouth and is connected to your buccal tubes. The outer part has two curves. The curves go around your face but remain connected to the inner bow. That inner bow needs to be inserted into your buccal tubes. Completing the apparatus is a plastic safety strap that is placed over the neck band and onto the outer bow of the headgear.


Forsus – a device used for bite correction when a patient shows poor cooperation with elastics. The forsus allows the patient to open and move the jaw freely.


Herbst Appliance – an appliance used to correct an overbite. It is usually attached using stainless steel crowns. Metal side bars and some front braces are usually part of the appliance. Some may have an expansion screw in the middle of the palate to help widen the upper jaw.


Impressions – the first step in making a model of a patient’s teeth. The patient bites into a container filled with a rubbery material; that material then hardens to produce a mold of the teeth.

Interceptive Treatment – orthodontic treatment that is done on patients ages 6-10. The objective of interceptive orthodontic treatment is to provide orthopedic intervention, so that later orthodontic treatment is more comfortable and faster.

Ligation – the process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on a patient’s teeth.

Ligating Module – a small plastic piece, shaped like a donut, which is used to hold the archwires in the brackets on your teeth.


Mouthguard – a device to be worn while participating in sports that is used to protect the mouth from injury. The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients to prevent injuries.

Neckpad – a cloth-covered cushion which is worn around the neck when a facebow is worn. Generally, the breakaways are attached to the neckpad to provide force for the facebow.

Palatal Expander

Palatal Expander – a device used to make your jaw wider.

Panoramic X-Ray

Panoramic X-Ray – an x-ray taken by a machine that rotates around the head to give the orthodontist a picture of your teeth and jaws and other important information.


Retainer – an appliance to be worn after braces have been removed. The retainer attaches to upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in the correct position. At first, the retainer should be worn 24 hours a day; then the retainer should be worn at night to ensure that none of the teeth move while the bone normalizes and the teeth get settled in their correct positions.

Rubber Bands

Rubber Band (Elastic) – a small band used as a gentle but continuous force to help individual tooth movement or the aligning of the bite.

Safety Strap – a plastic strap which prevents a facebow from coming loose and causing discomfort to the patient.


Separator – a plastic or metal part which the orthodontist uses to create space between your teeth for bands.

Tightening – a process which occurs every 3-6 weeks when braces are worn. The orthodontist will either make adjustments to the wires in the braces or change the wires.


TADS – stands for Temporary Anchorage Devices. These are mini pins placed in the gums that facilitate the movement of teeth. TADS are the most high tech thing in orthodontics today.


Wax – a moldable wax used to prevent braces from irritating lips.

Wax Bite – a procedure to measure how well teeth come together. The patient will bite a sheet of wax to leave bitemarks, which will help the orthodontist relate the upper and lower models of your teeth to one another.