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Glossary of orthodontic terms

We understand it may feel overwhelming learning all new terminology to support your orthodontic treatment. That’s why we’ve put together a list of commonly used words and phrases and their definitions for easy reference.


Anything that is attached to your teeth that moves your teeth or corrects your bite.


A wire engaged in orthodontic attachments, affixed to the crowns of two or more teeth and guides the direction of tooth movement.

Band (orthodontic)

A thin metal ring, usually stainless steel, which serves to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. The band is closely adapted to fit the contours of the tooth and then cemented into place.


An orthodontic attachment made of metal, ceramic or plastic that holds the archwire against each tooth. The archwire fits into a slot in the bracket. Brackets may be attached directly to each tooth or to a band.

Gloassary of terms

Ceramic brackets

Crystalline, alumina, tooth-shade or clear synthetic sapphire brackets that are aesthetically more attractive than conventional metal attachments.


An elastic chain that is used to hold the archwires onto the brackets.

Coil spring

The coil spring fits between brackets and over the archwire.


The removal of cemented orthodontic bands.

Elastics (rubber bands)

A tiny rubber ring that ties the archwire into the bracket. Found in numerous colors for better appearance.

Fixed retainer

A permanent retainer that is bonded to the back side of the front teeth to keep the teeth from shifting from their new position.

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Habit appliance

An appliance designed to deter thumb or finger sucking habits.


Generic term for extraoral traction (attached around the back side of the head) for growth modification, tooth movement and anchorage.

Herbst appliance

Fixed or removable appliance designed commonly for overbite problems.


An imprint or mold of the teeth used to design an orthodontic treatment plan.

Interceptive treatment

Interceptive treatment, also known as early treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment usually performed between the ages of 6 and 10. This phase of treatment makes future orthodontic treatment faster and less invasive.

Gloassary of terms

Lingual appliances

Orthodontic appliances fixed to the interior (tongue) side of teeth.

MARA appliance

A growth appliance that helps correct overbites by positioning the patient's lower jaw forward.


Of or pertaining to the upper jaw. May be used to describe teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances or facial structures.


A mouthpiece that is tailored to provide protection to the braces and teeth while the patient is playing a sport.


Clear plastic, customized aligners that are used as an alternative orthodontic treatment method to traditional metal braces.

Gloassary of terms

Palatal expander

Attached to the upper molars through bonding or by cemented bands, the palatal expander is used to create a wider space in the upper jaw.


A permanent image, typically on film, produced by ionizing radiation. Sometimes called an X-ray after the most common source of image-producing radiation.


Any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain the position of the teeth following corrective treatment.

Separator (spacer)

Small elastics that fit snugly between certain teeth to move them slightly so bands can be placed around them later.wax

Patients are instructed to place wax over a bracket or poking wire that is causing irritation to the lip or cheek.

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Minor orthodontic issues

If you suffer from any of the following problems with your braces, these solutions may help you to temporarily relieve the discomfort.

  • Loose band or bracket
    The seal created by the cement (glue) has been broken. Call our office and schedule an appointment. If band and bracket detaches from wire, save it and bring it with you to your next appointment. 
  • Poking wire
    Often referred to as a ‘sticker,’ a poking wire is the term for a wire that sticks out and causes irritation. Using a pencil eraser, push the poking wire down or, after drying it with a napkin, place orthodontic wax on it to alleviate discomfort. 
  • Broken archwire or headgear, lost ligature or hook
    These problems could cause the teeth to shift in the wrong direction and must be corrected as soon as possible. Call our office to schedule an appointment. 

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  • Loose appliance
    If your appliance is poking you, place wax on the affected part of your appliance. 
  • General soreness
    When you get your braces on, you may feel general soreness in your mouth and your teeth may be tender when biting for three to five days. This can be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm salt water mouthwash. If the tenderness is severe, take Advil or Tylenol as directed.

    The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the surface of the braces. You can put wax on the braces to lessen this. We’ll show you how. 

Call us

If any of the above issues happen to your braces, call and book a consultation with us – even if you manage to fix the problem yourself. It's important for our specialists to check that your braces are still working as they should.

Gloassary of terms

2317 Stony Brook Dr.
KY, 40220

502-895-3473 Directions & Opening Times

208 N. Second St.
KY, 40004

502-349-6300 Directions & Opening Times

219 W. Main St.
KY, 40033

270-984-8515 Directions & Opening Times