Glossary of Orthodontic Terms



An evaluation of your progress where your appliances may be changed or tightened to keep your treatment on track and moving forward.



Anything the orthodontist attaches to your teeth to move your teeth or to change the shape of your jaw.



The orthodontic wires we use are specially alloyed. They're designed to deliver light and gentle forces over longer periods of time thereby decreasing the need for extra appointments. The end result is that there's very little discomfort and virtually no pain associated with orthodontic treatment.


The tiny tooth-colored spot of bonding material temporarily adhered to the tooth to allow proper and effective tooth movement in aligners



Bands are metal rings that are sometimes placed around the back molars and are used to anchor other orthodontic appliances.



The process of cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.



The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using a special adhesive.



Orthodontic appliances consist mainly of brackets, which are the individual braces that are bonded or glued directly on the teeth, combined with the gentle wires which deliver the forces that actually move the teeth.



We currently have several different bracket types from which to choose. Our most popular bracket is the miniature silver metal bracket. These brackets due to their size are one of the most comfortable brackets made today. They are very low profile and have the rounded corners so they're naturally less irritating to the lips, cheeks, and tongue. You can also get them with all the different colors on them so they're very popular with our teenagers.

We also offer the clear brackets for those who are interested in that "nearly invisible look." 



An x-ray of the head that shows if your teeth are aligned and your jaws are growing and/or functioning properly. Our practice utilizes digital radiography to maximize clarity and minimize radiation exposure.



A stretchable plastic elastic band used to hold archwires into brackets and to move teeth and close spaces.



A meeting with your orthodontist and/or treatment coordinator where he/she discusses your treatment plan.



The removal of cemented orthodontic brackets.


ELASTICS (Rubber Bands)

Miniature rubber bands that the patient wears on their braces to help the teeth move.

Teeth have never failed to move when elastics are worn consistently and as directed. Wear them as we have shown you both night and day. This means meal time too, if at all possible. Once you learn this you won't slip into the bad habit of leaving them off after meals. If you wear your elastics one day and leave them off the next, your teeth can't tell which way they are moving, so they will just wiggle back and forth and become unhealthy due to looseness.

Change to a new elastic every 12 to 24 hours, whichever we have told you. Remember, rubber bands get tired, too!

If a hook breaks or gets bent out of shape, don't wait for your appointment! Notify us right away so you don't lose any of your important progress.

We will tell you in which direction to hook your elastics.

Here's the easiest way to replace your elastics: open your mouth about halfway and reach in to hook the elastics the way we show you. If instructed to wear back to front, hook the back tooth first and stretch forward to the bracket or hook in the front of the mouth.



A special wire bonded to the back side of the front teeth to keep them straight after orthodontic treatment is completed.

After active orthodontic treatment is completed, it is important to return to us for retention checkups to insure a good final result. Our goal is to provide a smile which lasts a lifetime, and retainers help us do just that.

Minor "retwisting" can often be handled with a simple retainer adjustment. However, left untreated, much more extensive therapy may be needed.

Occasionally, we may prescribe removable retainers for you. It is extremely important to wear your retainers as directed. If you experience any difficulties with the fit of your retainers or with the unwanted shifting of your teeth, please call our office immediately.

With the permanent fixed retainers, we can greatly enhance the stability of that beautiful smile and perfect bite. These "invisible" retainers are bonded or glued on the back side of the front teeth. There is virtually no discomfort associated with eating and speaking, minimal additional maintenance required with cleaning, and best of all, you don't even have to remember to put them in! If you experience any problems with your permanent retainers, it is critical that you contact our office immediately.



The Herbst appliance is a hinged metal orthopedic appliance which is used during the treatment of a jaw growth condition known by orthodontists as "Class II Skeletal Dysplasia" (where the lower jaw hasn't grown as far forward as the upper jaw and results in an "overbite" or dental protrusion of the upper teeth). It is especially successful and effective in correcting the underdeveloped, receding lower jaw.

The principal function of the Herbst appliance is to hold the underdeveloped lower jaw forward in the normal and correct biting position and still allow the mouth to open and close. While the lower jaw is being held forward, remodeling takes place. In time, the lower jaw remains forward so that its development is brought into balance with that of the upper jaw.

(How It Works)
The Herbst is a cemented  appliance with the upper and lower parts applied to the teeth using an orthodontic cement. It does not move or correct teeth; it corrects jaw bones and muscular function.  Once in place, the upper and lower parts are connected on each side by the paired telescoping elements. These elements, each containing a lower plunger (fork) and an upper sleeve (tube), allow the mouth to open and close freely. However, as the mouth closes, the lower plunger slides into the upper sleeve until it contacts the sleeve, thereby holding the lower jaw forward. By adjusting the length of the telescoping elements at the time the appliance is constructed, a prescribed amount of forward placement and correction of the underdeveloped jaw can be built into the appliance.

We have used over 15,000 Herbst appliances in the last 35 years. The huge success of the orthopedic treatment is because the patient usually adapts to the appliance quite well within the first 3-5 days. The second reason for its success is because the bones and muscles are in proper function and alignment 24 hours a day. Typically, it is worn comfortably in conjunction with musical instruments, sports activities, and all foods. The results are predictable, stable, and attractive from the first day of appliance placement.



Customized molds of your teeth that are taken with an alginate material in order to create plaster models or to fabricate orthodontic appliances or Invisalign trays for your teeth.



Orthodontic "growth-guidance" treatment that is usually done between the ages of 6 and 10, when indicated. The objective of interceptive orthodontic treatment is to provide orthopedic and partial orthodontic intervention so that later full or comprehensive orthodontic treatment goes more quickly and is less complicated. There are also many psychosocial benefits of interceptive care as patients (and parents) are appreciative of early cosmetic results.



Invisalign® is a technology developed using computer scanners and virtual reality to move teeth gradually using the construction of clear overlay retainer appliances.

The overlay appliances are constructed via computer with only one-fourth millimeter movement of the malposed (crooked) teeth for each clear aligner appliance. The treatment consists of a series of these clear overlay retainer appliances. The number of appliances required to straighten the teeth completely varies according to the severity of the malocclusion. They are designed to be worn 24 hours a day, with the exception of 15 minutes (maximum) out for eating and oral hygiene.

This technology is revolutionizing orthodontic practice globally as we now know it! Our practice is starting more and more adults and teens alike with Invisalign. Those who may not be ideal candidates for this “braceless” treatment are still given the option of utilizing the more familiar brace attachment appliances--where huge developments by NASA in brace-wire technology (copper-nickel-titanium) are now drastically reducing previous traditional 2-3 year treatment times to the new 10-16 month treatment times!



A device that is used to protect your mouth from injury when you are participating in sports. The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients, to prevent injuries.



The expander appliance is designed to widen your jaws (and consequently the teeth, too.) In order for it to be effective, someone must adjust the appliance as directed. To adjust the appliance, insert the key into the hole located in the middle of the expander. Push the key in the direction of the arrow (toward the back of the mouth). Keep pushing the key until the next hole becomes completely visible. This completes one "turn" of the appliance. If you ever have difficulty adjusting the appliance, please call the office.

The best time to adjust your appliance is the first thing in the morning and/or right after dinner. In this way, you will have time to get used to the tightness before you begin the day's activities or before you go to sleep at night. Some tightness or pressure around the roof of the mouth and the nose can be expected but you should not experience any severe pain or looseness of teeth or the appliance. In the highly unlikely event that this happens, stop adjusting the appliance and call the office for an appointment.

For most patients, there is also a 3 to 4 day adjustment period in becoming comfortable in chewing with and cleaning around the expander. The good news is that once the adjustment period has passed, the appliance is very comfortable to wear. Proper brushing and flossing must be maintained to prevent enamel scarring and gum inflammation.

If sweets are to be eaten, they should be eaten at a regular meal, not as a snack. Foods to be avoided while you are wearing the appliance include hard and sticky candy, ice, gum, Doritos or Fritos, pizza crust, raw apples or carrots, popcorn, and sugared carbonated drinks.

After 5 to 7 days, you should notice a space developing between your front teeth (RPE, Rapid Palatal Expander). The space will close up on its own in about two months. If this space is not present after one week, do not turn the appliance anymore. Please call the office for further instructions. If you miss your next appointment, do not turn the expander any more than instructed. Your appliance will need to be left in place for at least 6 months to establish bone stability and to maintain the corrected expansion.

For and SAE (Slow Arch Expander) , the active expansion will gradually take approximately 3 to 6 months. The expanders are usually left on for an additional 6 to 12 months to serve as their own "retainer" while the remaining permanent teeth are allowed to continue to erupt. If you miss your next appointment, do not turn the expander any more than instructed. Please call the office if you have any questions or concerns.



An x-ray is taken by a machine that rotates around your head to give your orthodontist a picture of your teeth, jaws and other important information. Our practice utilizes digital radiography to maximize clarity and minimize radiation exposure.



Facial and intraoral high resolution 1 to 1 ratio digital photographs will be taken throughout treatment.



These records, which include cephalometric and panoramic digital x-rays, digital photos and laser generated study models, help your orthodontist determine what treatment needs to be done.



Normally your teeth fit snugly against the other. However, we often find that we have to move those teeth apart to make room for braces. Separators allow us to do this easily.

Small springs and little plastic modules (shaped like small doughnuts) are two types of separators we use. Once in place, they gently move the chosen teeth slightly apart to allow us to accurately place bands or crowns at your next appointment.

This will cause you some temporary soreness, but that goes away after a few days—don't despair! Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can help relieve this soreness. Possibly the best relief, though, comes from your normal chewing with these teeth. Chewing will speed your teeth along the way to feeling normal again.

After a few days your teeth will feel comfortable again as they get accustomed to being slightly apart. That wee space means your appliances can be fitted easily and in the place that best aids your future correction.

Important! If you happen to lose a separator, call us and come in so we can replace it. We need to hold that space we have created until your next regular appointment so we can place your bands or crowns comfortably.



A procedure to measure and record how  your teeth come together. You bite a sheet or small block of wax and leave bite marks in the wax. This helps the orthodontist and the laboratory to relate the upper and lower models of your teeth together.