Improving Your Dental Care

Getting Braces? Know These 8 Terms

Will you be getting braces to correct the alignment of your teeth? If so, you'll likely feel a bit confused by all the terms that your orthodontist is using. Here are a few key terms that you need to know.


Ever hear your orthodontist talk about your gingiva? This is just a technical way of referring to your hums. They may say that your gingiva looks inflamed for example, meaning that they look red and enlarged. 

Mandible and Maxilla

Another technical name that you may hear is the mandible and maxilla. These are the names for your lower and upper jar respectfully. 


You may need to have a ring placed around some teeth to help give the braces additional leverage to move them. Your orthodontist will likely call these bands, and they will stay in place for the duration of your treatment.

Brackets and Archwire

Brackets will be cemented to your teeth, and are used as a way to move the teeth into the proper position. An archwire is the metal wire that connects to each bracket and is used to help move the teeth. While normal brackets have a door that allows the archwire to be put on them, there are also self-ligating brackets that have the archwire built into them without a door. 


Your orthodontist will give you rubber bands to put on the brackets that help move them into the right position. These rubber bands are frequently referred to as elastics, so know that they are the same thing. 


Expanders are a device that an orthodontist uses to make your jaw wider. The appliance will connect to both sides of your teeth and help move the teeth outward, and is worn for the duration of the treatment.


Problems with how your teeth protrude are known as malocclusions. There are several classes of malocclusions as well that are used to describe different types of problems. For example, a class 2 malocclusion is when your upper teeth protrude past the lower teeth.


Tooth impaction is when you have one tooth growing in an odd direction where it will run into another tooth. This often happens with teeth that are beneath the gingiva because they are growing sideways, but it can also happen with teeth that have erupted. 

Still feeling a bit confused about the terms being used for your new braces? Be sure to ask your orthodontist during your appointment.