Learn More About Common Orthodontic Terms 

If you are about to undergo orthodontic treatment, you may become confused by all terms used to describe your treatment and the appliances we use to move teeth. At Eastern Virginia Orthodontics, we want you to feel comfortable for the entire time you’re improving your smile, so you can expect us to explain every step as you move through your treatment process. To help you understand all the orthodontic jargon, below is a glossary of the most common orthodontic terms and their meanings. 


A device that is either fixed to the teeth or removable, used in orthodontic treatment to move teeth or make corrections to a bite.


A wire engaged in orthodontic attachments that is affixed to the crowns of two or more teeth to guide the direction of tooth movement.

Band (Orthodontic)

A thin metal band typically made of stainless steel that’s designed to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. A band is custom-fit to the contours of the tooth, then cemented into place.


A small attachment that is affixed to an orthodontic band or bonded directly to teeth, serving to fasten the archwire to the band or tooth. A band can be made of metal, ceramic or plastic.

Ceramic Brackets

Commonly referred to as "clear braces," ceramic brackets are the clear or tooth-shade bracket bonded directly to the patient's tooth and fastened to the archwire.


An elastic or stretchable chain that is used to hold the archwire onto the brackets.

Coil Spring

A spring that fits between the brackets and over the archwire to open space between teeth.


The removal of cemented orthodontic bands from teeth.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Tiny rubber bands or rings that tie the archwire into the bracket. Elastics are available in several colors, allowing patients to personalize their treatment.

Fixed Retainer

An orthodontic appliance designed to hold the teeth in their new positions after the patient is finished wearing braces or aligners. A fixed retainer is bonded or cemented to the backside of the front teeth. It is typically comfortable to wear a fixed retainer and easy to speak and eat with it in.

Habit Appliance

An appliance that is designed to repress and eventually eliminate the habit of tongue thrusting or finger/thumb sucking.


A general term used to describe an orthodontic appliance that is worn partly outside the mouth, to create just enough force to move the teeth properly and guide the growth of the face and jaws.

Herbst Appliance

A fixed or removable appliance used to correct overbite problems.


An imprint or mold of the teeth which is used to help an orthodontist design a treatment plan.

Interceptive Treatment

Also known as early treatment, interceptive treatment is usually carried out between the ages of 6 and 10. This phase of treatment makes future treatment faster and less invasive.

Lingual Appliances

Orthodontic appliances which are fixed to the lingual or tongue-side of the teeth.

MARA Appliance

A growth appliance used to correct overbites by positioning the lower jaw forward.


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


A mouthpiece that is designed to be worn when playing sports to protect the teeth and braces from harm.

Palatal Expander

An appliance that is attached to upper molars through bonding or by cementing bands into place and which is designed to create a wider space in the upper jaw.


A permanent image, typically on film, that is produced by ionizing radiation which is often called an X-ray.


An orthodontic appliance that is either fixed or removable, used to hold the teeth in their new positions once a patient is done wearing braces or aligners.

Separator (Spacer)

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


A soft and pliable material used to place over a bracket or wire that is irritating the inside of the cheek or lip.

Questions About Orthodontic Terms? Contact Us

If you have any questions about any orthodontic terms used to describe your treatment, please don’t hesitate to ask! We are always happy to answer your questions and to address any concerns you may have. You can contact us online or ask our friendly staff your questions the next time you visit one of our orthodontic offices in Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.