Orthodontic glossary

New to orthodontics? Our orthodontic glossary should help you understand some of the terms we talk about when speaking to you about treatment.


The world of orthodontics is full of unusual words and expressions. At Braces N Faces Orthodontics in Geelong and Hoppers Crossing, we use these words every day so we're familiar with what they mean. But the average person who requires braces for their teeth might wonder about some of the words we use. For that reason we've provided a list of words and expressions you might come across during a session with one of our orthodontists.

This list is from our own resources and from The Australian Schedule of Dental Services and Glossary. While it won't answer all your questions, it might provide just a little information.

Importantly, if you have questions about your braces, don't hesitate to ask. At Braces N Faces we've been fitting braces for patients in Geelong for many years and have extensive experience and knowledge of what it takes to achieve straight teeth and a beautiful smile for our patients. Whether it's a teenager getting invisible braces, or we're fitting braces for adults with long-standing dental disorders, we want our clients to know as much as possible about what our specialist orthodontists at Braces N Faces are doing and why. Please contact us if you have any questions about our services.

Tooth terminology

Adjustment: At an adjustment appointment, our orthodontists at Braces N Faces assess how your treatment is progressing, change or adjust your wires, or add elastics to ensure your treatment progresses the way we want it do.

Anodontia: This is a congenital condition in which all the teeth are absent.

Anterior: A word to describe teeth situated in the front and which orthodontists commonly use for the incisor and canine teeth.

Appliances: In orthodontics, appliances are the devices we use to move your teeth, realign your jaw or keep your teeth in their final position once we remove the braces.

Arch: This is a word to describe the arrangement of your teeth. You have an upper dental arch and a lower dental arch.

Archwire: The metal wire attached to the brackets on your teeth is known as the archwire and is what moves your teeth into their new position.

ASO: ASO is an acronym for The Australian Society of Orthodontists, the professional group for orthodontists in Australia. Orthodontists must be certified before they can be a member of the Australian Society of Orthodontists.

Attrition: This is the word to describe wear that takes place on your teeth’s’ biting surfaces.

Band: A circular strip of metal cemented to teeth is known as a band, and provides an anchor point as well as strength.

Banding: When you visit Braces N Faces Orthodontics we’ll bond braces or bands to your teeth in a process known as banding.

Bite: This is how we describe the way your top and bottom teeth come into contact.

Bite registration: We make an imprint of the manner in which your teeth contact each other and this is your bite registration.

Bonding: The word to describe the process of adhering brackets to your teeth.

Braces: Special appliances – usually brackets, wires and bands – that orthodontists fit to patients to move teeth and jaws.

Bracket: The archwire of your braces sits on a bracket made from either metal or ceramic and bonded to your teeth.

Bruxism: People who grind their teeth, usually while asleep, suffer from bruxism. This can lead to pain in the jaw and also abnormal wear to your teeth.

Buccal tube: This is a small metal part of a bracket which orthodontists attach to the molar band to hold appliances to help move your teeth.

Cementum: The calcified tissue which is on the surface of the root of a tooth and which provides attachment for the periodontal ligament.

Cephalometric radiographs: A cephalometric radiograph is a special x-ray of your face which we use to examine the position of your teeth and jaws.

Chain: Archwires are held into brackets using a flexible plastic chain that helps move your teeth.

Cross bite: A cross bite occurs when the top, or upper, teeth bite inside the bottom, lower, teeth. A cross bite is also known as a malocclusion.

Crown: The crown of the tooth is the part of the tooth that is visible and is above the gum margin or gingiva.

Crowding: Crowding occurs when there is not enough space for your teeth in your mouth, and your teeth start overlapping each other.

Debanding: Debanding occurs when our orthodontists remove your braces.

Dentine: The calcified tissue that forms the major part of a tooth. In the crown of the tooth, the dentine is covered by enamel. The pulp chamber of the tooth is enclosed by dentine.

Diastema: Diastema is the word that describes the gap between two teeth. If you have a gap between your front teeth you have a diastema.

Ectopic: If you have ectopic teeth you have teeth that have developed in the wrong place. The good news is that braces can usually move ectopic teeth into the right position.

Elastics: As the name suggests, these are tiny elastics or rubber bands which apply continual force so your teeth or jaw move into correct alignment.

Enamel: The hard, calcified substance that is the surface of a crown of a tooth.

Fixed appliances: Fixed appliances are devices we bond to your teeth to help their realignment. Only your orthodontist can remove these appliances, hence the name “fixed appliances”.

Fluoride: Fluoride is a natural element, often added to water supplies, to help prevent tooth decay. Most toothpastes contain fluoride.

Frenectomy: Surgery to cut or move the fraenum or frenum into a new position is known as a frenectomy.

Fraenum: The fraenum, also known as frenum, is the fold of flesh between your gums and cheeks or your tongue.

Functional appliances: Functional appliances are removable devices which can help correct misaligned upper and lower jaws.

Gingiva: The marginal part of the gum that surrounds the tooth where it emerges from the deeper, supporting tissues.

Impacted tooth: An impacted tooth is one that has not fully erupted through your gum.

Impression: When we take a mould of your teeth we are taking an impression.

Malocclusion: If you have teeth that do not meet and fit together neatly then you have a malocclusion. There are different classes of malocclusions.

Mandible: Your mandible is your lower jaw.

Maxilla: Your maxilla is your upper jaw.

Mixed dentition: Mixed dentition is the phrase used when children, usually aged between 6 and 12, have a combination of deciduous or baby teeth and permanent adult teeth.

Modules: Modules are small plastic pieces which hold archwires in brackets. They are donut-shaped.

Mucosa: The name given to the lining of epithelium inside the mouth, and its immediate substructures.

Nightguard: A nightguard is a type of removable mouthguard which users wear at night to reduce damage or wear to teeth from jaw clenching or teeth grinding during sleep.

Open bite: An open bite occurs when teeth do not contact each other.

Orthodontics: This is the specialised field of dentistry involving the diagnosis, supervision, guidance and correction of malocclusions.

Orthodontist: An orthodontist is a specialist who diagnoses, prevents and repairs dental and facial irregularities. In Australia, to become an orthodontist you must complete a Bachelor degree in Dentistry, a Masters degree in Orthodontics and be registered as a Specialist in Orthodontics.

Orthognathic surgery: This is a type of jaw surgery to repair facial bone structure abnormalities.

Panoramic or OPG radiograph: This is a type of x-ray which displays all teeth and both jaws on one film.

Periodontal ligament: The ligament which connects a tooth by its root to the supporting bone.

Plaque: Plaque is a film of bacteria on your teeth. Combined with sugars, plaque becomes an acid that causes tooth decay and gum disease.

Quadhelix: This impressively named appliance helps correct a crossbite. It attaches to molar teeth and has a zig- zag wire across the palate.

Removable appliance: If you have an orthodontic appliance you can take out when you please, then you have a removable appliance.

Retainer: When your braces come off, you will get a new appliance to stop your teeth moving again. This appliance is called a retainer.

Separators: Separators are flexible o-rings that create space between teeth. Orthodontists usually place them in the days leading up to a band being bonded to a tooth.

Root: The root is the part of the tooth below the gum margin and is connected through cementum on its surface and the fibres of the periodontal ligament to the supporting bone.

Supernumerary teeth: This is where you have more teeth than usual. Supernumerary teeth are usually a genetic occurrence.

Twin block: This is an appliance comprising both an upper and lower plate and pulls the lower jaw forward, encouraging growth of the lower jaw.

Wires: Wires is another name for archwires, the fine metal wires attached to brackets and used to move teeth into the correct alignment.

Dental arch

Anterior teeth: The teeth in the upper or lower arch usually comprising the central and lateral incisors and the canine (or cuspid) teeth.

Buccal: An adjective to describe the aspect or surface of the teeth or other object or structure in the mouth which is in proximity to the cheek.

Canine (cuspid) tooth: The tooth usually immediately behind the incisor teeth; usually the third tooth from the centre of the dental arch.

Incisor teeth: The front teeth usually in the centre of the upper or lower dental arch.

Labial: An adjective to describe the aspect or surface of teeth or other object or structure in the mouth which is in proximity to the lips; for instance, the front surface of the incisor teeth.

Lingual: An adjective to describe the aspect or surface of the teeth or other object or structure in the mouth which is in proximity to the tongue.

Molar teeth: The teeth behind the bicuspid teeth. There are three molar teeth in each quadrant of the dental arch. They are the very back teeth; the wisdom tooth is the last molar in each dental arch.

Palatal: An adjective to describe the aspect or surface of the teeth or other object or structure in the mouth which is adjacent to the palate.

Posterior teeth: The teeth at the back of the mouth including premolars and molars.

Orthodontic terminology

Removable appliances

Passive removable appliance: A removable, one arch appliance attached to the dentition by metal clasps or similar device designed to maintain the position of the teeth in the dentition. The appliance does not provide pressure directed at tooth movement. Sometimes used following orthodontic active treatment to maintain a correction.

Active removable appliance: A removable, one arch appliance attached to the dentition by clasps or similar device which contains some elements capable of exerting pressure on either individual teeth or parts of the arch to achieve tooth or dental arch movement.

Functional orthopaedic appliance: An appliance whose primary action involves orthopaedic change of jaw shape or relationship utilising and modifying the effect of the environmental tissues. Many are bi-maxillary appliances involving upper and lower arches.

Sequential plastic aligners: A series of custom-made plastic aligners used to gradually move teeth.

Fixed appliances

Partial banding: Application of bands and/or brackets to six teeth or fewer in the maxillary or mandibular arch, which can be attached to a resilient arch wire. The appliance is designed to correct either tooth position or arch form.

Full arch banding: Application of bands and brackets for attachment of resilient arch wires to most of the teeth of the maxillary or mandibular arch to correct the position of teeth or to correct the arch form. This procedure includes the removal of the appliance and the provision and supervision of the initially provided fixed or removable retention appliance.

Fixed palatal or lingual arch appliance: Insertion of an appliance, fixed to the palatal or lingual aspect of the dentition by bands,
frequently applied in the molar region. It is aimed at either changing or maintaining the arch form and can also be designed to uncross or straighten individual teeth.

Partial banding for inter-maxillary elastics (cross elastics): Application of bands and brackets to two or more teeth in maxillary and mandibular arches. Resilient arch wires may be attached to the brackets and also inter-maxillary elastics between the two arches. The resulting appliances are designed to correct the position of teeth or arch form.

Maxillary expansion appliance: Insertion of an appliance fixed to the maxillary dentition by partial banding which exerts a force to expand or widen the maxillary arch and/or teeth.

Passive fixed appliance: A passive appliance fixed to one or more teeth, designed to prevent movement of the teeth relative to each other or to the segment of the arch. The appliance can be used to maintain a space from the loss of a tooth.

Minor tooth guidance: A procedure using an appliance attached directly to teeth which provides movement or guidance to correct the position of a tooth.

Extra-oral appliances

Some appliances are worn to correct mandibular protrusion and are not attached directly to the dentition. Other appliances in this category are attached to the dentition by either full or partial banding. Most of these appliances have a harness which is passed behind the head to provide a reaction for the forces required. They are usually worn for a limited time each day.

Attachments: Attachment of a hook, peg or lug to facilitate orthodontic force application on a malpositioned erupted tooth. Force application may utilise either fixed or removable appliances.

Orthodontic adjustment: Adjustment of an orthodontic appliance, either fixed or removable. This is often associated with ongoing treatment anticipated at the time of insertion of the appliance.

Relining: Replacement of the tissue fitting surface of a removable appliance to improve its accuracy and fit.

* From The Australian Schedule of Dental Services and Glossary


255 Pakington Street
VIC 3220

(03) 5221 6677

8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm

Directions & Opening times

1 Paloma Court
Hoppers Crossing
VIC 3029

(03) 9748 9224

8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm
8:00am - 5:00pm

Directions & Opening times