Orthodontic Terms

Arch Wire

The arch wire is the wire that moves your teeth. The wire is attached with small elastic donuts or ligature wires, these are what hold the wire to the bracket. The arch wires are changed regularly through your treatment, each change in arch wire brings you closer to a perfect smile.


Brackets are the literal Brace that bonds directly to the tooth’s surface. The arch wire attaches to the bracket by your dentist or orthodontist.

Rarely brackets come loose and may irritate your mouth. Your best option is to remove the bracket from your mouth, and save it in a bag and bring it to your dentist or orthodontists office. Make an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist so they can re-glue the bracket.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Elastic bands will be worn at some point in the treatment to coordinate the upper and lower teeth in order to perfect the bite. Teeth move rapidly and comfortable in response to the elastics. Wearing elastics occasionally or not consistently, the will continually “shock” the teeth and begin soreness again. Treatment slows to a standstill or stops when elastics or worn one day and removed the next. Tooth soreness between appointments generally shows improper use of headgear, elastics or poor hygiene. Remove elastics only while brushing or unless otherwise directed, change elastics once or twice per day.


Occlusion is the spacing and alignment of your lower teeth and upper jaw when you bite down.

Types of Occlusion:

Openbite: Anterior opening between upper and lower teeth.

Overbite: Vertical overlapping of the upper teeth over the lower.

Overjet: Horizontal projection of the upper teeth beyond the lower.

Crossbite: When top teeth bite inside the lower teeth. It can occur with the front teeth or back teeth.


An appliance that encourages lower jaw growth to match upper jaw growth.

Lower Lingual Arch (LLA)

A lower lingual arch (LLA) helps the lower teeth maintain space. It encourages the molars to stay fixed and does not move them. The LLA is created by placing a wire up against the lower teeth and connecting it to two bands around the molars. This prevents the molars from blocking off space that the teeth will later need to be developed in to. Common applications are with early loss of baby teeth, or when lower teeth are slightly crowded in a growing child and removing permanent teeth is not an option to prevent crowding.

Palatal Expander

The Palatal expander is placed in the roof of the mouth to widen the upper dental arch. The upper dental arch, is painless to be spread and separate due to a joint found in the center. A temporary side effect may be a space developed between the upper two front teeth, but this will slowly go away after only a few days. Once separation has occurred, the two halves fill in back together with new bone filling in the space.


A Nance is used to maintain the position of the maxillary molars with out attaching to any other teeth. A plastic pad on the palate provides stability.


Braces are removed at the end of the active orthodontic treatment phase and replaced with retainers. The word retain, literally means to hold. Teeth need to be held in their new positions while the tissues, meaning the bone, tongue, lips and elastic membranes around the roots have adapted themselves to the new tooth positions. Teeth can and will move if they are not retained. This is why it is incredibly important to wear retainers as your dentist or orthodontist directs.

Orthodontic Emergencies or Problems

Loose Bracket

Brackets may occasionally become loose. If a bracket brakes loose, save it in an envelope and bring it to the office or leave it in place, if it is not causing irritation. Call the office in order for us to schedule a time to re-glue the bracket.

Poking Wire

Wire may poke your cheek or gums, there are several things you can do before you get in to the office after scheduling an appointment. First you can place a ball of wax on the wire to relieve the irritation. You can also attempt to cut the wire yourself using nail clipper or cuticle cutter. On occasion, a poking wire can safely be turned so that it no longer causes discomfort. In order to turn a poking wire, use smooth object, such as a pencil eraser to tuck the wire out of the way.

Wire Out of Back Brace

Hard and sticky food may bend a wire or cause it to come out of the back braces. If a wire comes out of the brace, you may need to use tweezers or needle nose pliers to correct the wire and put it back in place. If you are unable to put the wire back in place, you may also clip the wire if it is causing discomfort. Call the office as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

Sore Teeth

Discomfort may be experienced after beginning treatment or during the change of wires and adjusting appliances. Normally the pain will be diminished within 24-72 hours. Some suggestions to help with discomfort may include:

  • Eat a soft food diet
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water
  • Take a Tylenol or Ibuprofen as directed on the bottle
  • Chewing on sore teeth may increase pain short term but improve overall feeling faster
  • If pain persists more than a few days, please call our office.

Braces Care

Proper mouth cleansing is necessary every time you eat, you will be shown proper braces care when your orthodontic treatment begins. Teeth with braces trap food easily and can be very hard to clean. If food is left stuck on the wires or brackets, it can etch the enamel on your teeth causing an undesired look. Your most important job as a patient is to keep your mouth clean of food. If food is collected near your gums, symptoms of gum disease will show in your mouth. Unhealthy gums may bleed and swell, while the pressure from the disease will slow down tooth correction movements.

BRUSHING: brush your teeth 4-5 times per day and after each meal.
Check in the mirror to see if you have missed any areas, your wires and brackets should be free of any food particles.
Note: If your gums bleed during brushing, continue stimulating the area with the brush, do not avoid brushing the area. Angle your toothbrush to clean the area underneath your gum line. Bleed should stop and gums should be restored and healthy again after 3 to 4 days.

FLOSSING: Floss at lease once per day, using a special floss threader to floss while your braces are on.

FLUORIDE RINSE OR GEL: Is highly recommended to prevent disease and to improve oral hygiene.

Avoid Sweet and Sticky Foods:

Candy bars with caramel
Fruit Roll-Ups
Candy or caramel apples
Gummy Bears

Avoid Tough Foods:

Hard Candy
Corn Chips
Ice Cubes
Popcorn Kernels

Cut the following in to small pieces, chew with back teeth:

Corn on the Cob
Chicken Wings
Spare Ribs