Orthodontic Terms Glossary

Learn about these typical orthodontic tools and techniques


A dental specialist who has completed an advanced post-doctoral course, accredited by the American Dental Association, of at least two academic years in the special area of orthodontics.

Teeth and mouth

  • Overbite: Vertical overlapping of upper teeth over lower teeth, usually measured perpendicular to the occlusal plane.
  • Overjet: A horizontal overlap of the front teeth.
  • Gingiva: The tissue that surrounds the teeth, consisting of a fibrous tissue that is continuous with the periodontal ligament and mucosal covering.
  • Lingual: Of or pertaining to the tongue. A term used to describe surfaces and directions toward the tongue.
  • Maxillary: Of or pertaining to the upper jaw. May be used to describe teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances or facial structures.
  • Crowding: Dental malalignment caused by inadequate space for the teeth.

Treatment tools

  • Band (orthodontic): Bands are thin metal rings (usually stainless steel) that keep an orthodontic attachment (like a bracket) secured to a tooth. The band is fitted closely to the contours of the tooth and cemented in place. The orthodontic attachment is typically welded or soldered to the band.
  • Bracket: A small piece of metal, ceramic or plastic that is secured to a tooth either by bonding or banding.
  • Archwire: An archwire, affixed to the brackets on your teeth, helps guide the movement of your teeth. Throughout your treatment, Dr. DuClos may use different gauges of archwire to achieve the proper results. When you visit your general dentist for exams or cleanings, you’ll need to have our office remove your archwire and replace it again after your dental exam.
  • Ceramic Brackets: Crystalline, alumina, tooth-shade or clear synthetic sapphire brackets that are aesthetically more attractive than conventional metal attachments. 
  • Coil Spring: Small spring placed around arch wire to either maintain or increase the space between teeth.
  • Color Tie: A color rubber band that secures the archwire to the bracket.
  • Elastics (rubber bands): These are used to move teeth in prescribed directions. Instructions will be given on how to wear them and how often. This is where the patient’s involvement is extremely important, as it is up to him or her to take them on and off.  In order to have braces removed at scheduled date, these elastics have to be worn according the doctors instructions.
  • Retainer: Any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain the position of the teeth following corrective treatment.

Treatment procedures

  • Debanding/Debonding: The removal of cemented orthodontic bands and brackets.
  • Orthognathic Surgery: Surgery to alter relationships of teeth and/or supporting bones, usually accomplished in conjunction with orthodontic therapy. This is usually done when there is no further growth expected.
  • Radiograph, or X-ray: A permanent image, performed digitally in our office, that shows growth and development of teeth and helps us develop a treatment plan.
  • Retention: The passive treatment period following active orthodontic correction during which retaining appliances may be used.