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Orthodontic Dictionary

Orthodontics is a specialised branch of dentistry which deals with treatment of irregularities in the jaws and teeth. The commonly used terminologies in orthodontics are listed below.

  • Acid Etch:

    The procedure of applying weak acid onto the tooth surface to prepare it for brackets (braces).

  • Anterior:


  • Appliances:

    This is any device attached to the teeth, to move the teeth, or change the position of the jaw.

  • Arch:

    Upper or lower jaw

  • Archwire:

    The metal wire attached to the brackets that are used to move the teeth.

  • Band:

    A metal ring that is cemented to the teeth for anchorage.

  • Braces:

    A fixed orthodontic appliance usually comprised of brackets, bands and wires.

  • Brackets:

    A tiny metal ceramic part that is affixed to each tooth on the arch. This serves as a means to fasten the archwire.

  • Bruxism:

    Excessive grinding of the teeth, usually during sleep

  • Buccal:

    The cheek surface inside the mouth

  • Buccal Tube:

    A small metal part of the bracket welded to the outside of the molar band; It contains slots to hold archwire, lip bumper, headgear and facebows.

  • Cephalometric Radiograph:

    A lateral (side view) X-ray of the head that shows alignment of teeth

  • Chain:

    A series of elastic O-rings connected together to hold each bracket to stabilise the archwire in place and move the teeth

  • Class I Malocclusion:

    Malocclusion with proper molar relationship and teeth that are crowded together, spaced apart, overbite, openbite, posterior crossbite or anterior crossbite

  • Class II Malocclusion:

    Malocclusion with upper front teeth protruding or due to lower teeth and jaw positioned back, relatively to upper teeth and jaw

  • Class III Malocclusion:

    Malocclusion with lower front teeth protruding or due to lower teeth and jaw positioned ahead, relatively to upper teeth and jaw

  • Closed Bite:

    Also known as deep bite, it occurs when upper front teeth overlap the bottom front teeth excessively

  • Comprehensive Treatment:

    A complete orthodontic treatment performed to correct malocclusion

  • Congenitally Missing Teeth:

    A genetic occurrence in which an expected number of permanent teeth do not develop

  • Crossbite:

    Upper posterior teeth erupt and function inside or outside of the arch in the lower posterior teeth. Lower anterior teeth erupt and function in front of the upper anterior teeth

  • Crown Angulation/Inclination:

    Tooth movement where the root of the tooth is tipped forward or backward to correct the angle of the crown

  • De-banding:

    Removal of orthodontic bands from the teeth

  • De-bonding:

    Removal of affixed orthodontic brackets from the teeth

  • Diagnostic Records:

    The information of the patient which may include thorough patient history, visual examination of teeth and radiographs, etc.

  • Digital Radiograph:

    Digital X-rays of the teeth which can be transmitted via computer

  • Ectopic Eruption:

    A tooth or teeth that erupt in an abnormal position

  • Elastics:

    Rubber bands that provide individual tooth movement or jaw alignment during certain treatments

  • Eruption:

    Process by which teeth come into the mouth

  • Extraction:

    Removal of a tooth

  • Facebow:

    A wire used with a nightbrace or headgear to move the upper first molars back, creating space for crowded or protrusive front teeth

  • Fiberotomy:

    A surgical procedure used to detach the fibres of attachment around the tooth

  • Fixed Appliances:

    An orthodontic appliance that is bonded or cemented to the teeth and cannot or should not be removed by the patient

  • Frenectomy:

    The surgical removal or repositioning of the frenulum (thin folds of mucous membrane enclosed with muscle fibres)

  • Gingiva:

    Gums or soft tissue around the teeth

  • Headgear:

    An appliance worn outside the mouth to provide traction for growth modification and tooth movement

  • Herbst Appliance:

    An appliance which is used to move the lower jaw forward

  • Impaction:

    A tooth that does not erupt or erupts partially

  • Impressions:

    Process of making a mould of the teeth

  • Interproximal Reduction:

    Removal of small amount of enamel between the teeth to reduce the width; also known as reproximation, enamel reduction, slenderising, stripping or selective reduction

  • Labial:

    The surface of the teeth in both upper and lower arches that face the lips

  • Lingual:

    The tongue side of the teeth in both arches

  • Lip Bumper:

    A wire device used to move the lower molars back and lower front teeth forward, creating room for crowded front teeth

  • Lip Incompetence:

    The inability to close the lips together at rest, due to protrusive front teeth

  • Malocclusion:

    Teeth that do not fit together properly

  • Mandible:

    Lower jaw

  • Maxilla:

    Upper jaw

  • Mixed Dentition:

    The dental developmental stage in children (age 6-12years) when they have a mix of baby teeth and permanent teeth

  • Open Bite:

    A malocclusion in which teeth do not make contact with each other

  • Orthodontics:

    specialised branch of dentistry which deals with treatment of malocclusions

  • Panoramic Radiograph:

    An X-ray that shows all teeth and both jaws on one film

  • Palatal Expander:

    A fixed or removable appliance used to make the upper jaw wider

  • Periodontal:

    Refers to the hard and soft tissues or supporting structures around the teeth

  • Plaque:

    A colourless, sticky film of bacteria, food particles and saliva that forms in the mouth and causes tooth decay and gum disease

  • Posterior:


  • Removable Appliance:

    An orthodontic appliance that can be removed and reinserted

  • Retainer:

    A fixed or removable appliance worn after braces are removed

  • Safety Strap:

    It prevents the facebow of the headgear from becoming loose and causing injury

  • Separators:

    A small wire loop placed between the teeth to create room for placing the bands

  • Serial Extraction:

    Selective removal of certain baby teeth and/or permanent teeth for a period of time to create space for permanent teeth

  • Space Maintainer:

    A fixed appliance used to hold space for an unerupted permanent tooth after the loss of a baby tooth prematurely, due to accident or decay

  • Supernumerary Teeth:

    A genetic occurrence of more teeth than the usual number. These can be malformed or could have erupted abnormally

  • Tightening the Braces:

    The process that is recommended every 3-6 weeks for adjustments of wires in the braces

  • Tongue Crib:

    A fixed device used to help patient stop habits of undesirable tongue forces exerting on teeth and bone that supports the teeth

  • Tongue Thrust:

    A person’s tongue pushes against the teeth when swallowing. These forces generated by the tongue move the teeth and bone leading to an anterior or posterior open bite.

  • Wax:

    Wax is placed on the brackets or archwires to prevent them from irritating the lips or cheeks.

  • Wires:

    Also referred as archwires, they are attached to the brackets to move the teeth


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