Orthodontic Glossary - Carvalho & Roth Orthodontics
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Your Northborough, Marlborough, and Newton Centre, MA Orthodontist

At Carvalho & Roth Orthodontics, it’s our mission to provide you with the best possible orthodontic experience. Our highly skilled team of doctors and friendly staff strive to make your comfort a priority in any of our welcoming and conveniently located offices. We proudly offer a variety of orthodontic treatment options, such as traditional bracesclear braces, and Invisalign, as well as many other orthodontic treatments. But before you get started on an orthodontic treatment plan, it’s a good idea to first understand a little more about orthodontics and what some of the words and phrases refer to. Below, you’ll find a helpful guide to some common orthodontic terms.


An archwire is a wire engaged in orthodontic attachments. It is typically affixed to the front of two or more teeth by a bracket, and as it is tightened, causes and guides tooth movement.

Band (orthodontic)

In orthodontics, a band is a thin metal ring, usually stainless steel, which serves to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. The band, with orthodontic attachments welded or soldered to it, is closely adapted to fit the contours of the tooth and then cemented into place.


A bracket is an orthodontic attachment that is secured to a tooth (typically on the front), either by bonding or banding, for the purpose of engaging an archwire. Brackets can be fabricated from metal, ceramic, or plastic.

Ceramic Brackets

Ceramic brackets are crystalline, alumina, tooth-shade, or clear synthetic sapphire brackets that are much more discreet and considered aesthetically more attractive than conventional metal attachments.


Crowding is a dental malalignment caused by inadequate space for the teeth which causes teeth to shift into odd positions close together.


Debanding is simply the removal of cemented orthodontic bands.

Elastics (rubber bands)

Orthodontic elastics, also referred to as rubber bands, are used to move teeth in a prescribed direction (commonly connected to a molar band and upper ball hook). These can be found in numerous colors for personalized appearance.


Gingiva is the tissue that surrounds the teeth, consisting of a fibrous tissue that is continuous with the periodontal ligament and mucosal covering.


Headgear is a generic term for extraoral traction, which is an orthodontic device that is attached around the back side of the head for growth modification, tooth movement, and anchorage.

Herbst Appliance

A Herbst is a fixed or removable appliance, designed commonly for overbite problems and more.


This is the process of acquiring representations of structures in either two or three dimensions.


Of or pertaining to the tongue. It is a term used to describe surfaces and directions toward the tongue.

Lingual Appliances

Orthodontic appliances fixed to the lingual surface of the teeth, or “back” of the teeth.


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


An orthodontist is 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. Orthodontists treat irregularities in teeth, most commonly crooked teeth and other malocclusions.

Orthognathic Surgery

This is surgery to alter relationships of teeth and/or supporting bones, usually accomplished in conjunction with orthodontic therapy.


A vertical overlapping of the upper teeth over the lower teeth, usually measured perpendicular to the occlusal plane.


This is a permanent image, typically on film, produced by ionizing radiation. Often referred to as an X-ray, after the most common source of image-producing radiation.


A retainer is any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain the position of the teeth following corrective orthodontic treatment.


Retention is the passive treatment period following active orthodontic correction, during which retaining appliances may be used.

Straight Wire Appliance

A variation of the edgewise appliance, in which brackets are angulated to minimize multiple archwire bends. Brackets and molar tubes have specific orientation in three planes of space.

Schedule a Visit with Your Marlborough area Orthodontist Today!

Now that you’re familiar with the important terms and phrases, it’s time for you to consider whether orthodontic treatment is right for you! The orthodontic experts at Carvalho & Roth Orthodontics would be more than happy to help answer any questions or address any concerns you may have regarding braces or other orthodontic treatments, and help you decide which of our treatment options may be right for you. Contact us today or use our simple online appointment request form to schedule your appointment and get started! Our team is looking forward to meeting you so we can help put a smile on your face!

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