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Braces, as normal as wearing jeans?

Nearly every other teen wears them, more and more grown-ups wear them and even your favorite stars: Braces are as normal to wear as jeans these days. So, you can just laugh back at people who tease brace-wearers, can't you?

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Glossary

At a glance: Key technical terms for braces

When someone says they want to put appliances in your mouth, you better know what they're talking about! Don't get hung up on brace terminology. Here's a guide to get you started:

Appliances

Any device, attached to the teeth or removable, designed to move the teeth, change the position of the jaw, or hold the teeth in their finished positions after braces are removed.

Arch

Upper or lower jaw.

Archwire

The metal wire that is attached to the braces and used to move the teeth.

Band

The metal ring that is cemented to a tooth for strength and anchorage.

Bond

The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.

Braces

A word commonly used to describe an orthodontic appliance, usually either brackets, bands and wires.

Bracket

Brackets are connected to the bands, or directly bonded on the teeth, and hold the archwire in place.

Bruxism

Grinding the teeth, usually during sleeping. Bruxism can cause abnormal tooth wear and may lead to pain in the jaw joints.

Buccal Tube

A small metal part of the bracket welded to the cheek side of the molar band. The tube may hold an archwire, lip bumper, headgear facebow or other appliances an orthodontist may use to move the teeth.

Chain

A stretchable series of elastic o-rings connected together and placed around each bracket to hold the archwire in place and move the teeth.

Congenitally Missing Teeth

A genetic occurrence in which the expected number of permanent teeth do not develop.

Crossbite

Upper posterior (back) teeth are in crossbite if they erupt and function inside or outside of the arch in the lower posterior or back teeth. Lower anterior (front) teeth are in crossbite if they erupt and function in front of the upper anterior teeth. A crossbite can be individual teeth or groups of teeth.

Diagnostic Records

The material and information that the orthodontist needs to properly diagnose and plan a patient's treatment. Diagnostic records may include a thorough patient health history, a visual examination of the teeth and supporting structures, plaster models of the teeth, a wax bite registration, extraoral and intraoral photographs, a panoramic and a cephalometric radiograph.

Eruption

The process by which teeth enter into the mouth.

Extraction

The removal of a tooth.

Elastics

Rubber bands. During certain stages of treatment, small elastics or rubber bands are worn to provide individual tooth movement or jaw alignment.

Fixed Appliances

An orthodontic appliance that is bonded or cemented to the teeth, and cannot or should not be removed by the patient.

Flossing

An important part of daily home dental care. Flossing removes plaque and food debris from between the teeth, braces and wires. Flossing keeps teeth and gums clean and healthy during orthodontic treatment.

Functional Appliances

Appliances that utilize the muscle action produced when speaking, eating and swallowing to produce force to move the teeth and align the jaws.

Gingiva

Soft tissue around the teeth, also known as the gums.

Gummy Smile

Showing an excessive amount of gingival (gum) tissue above the front teeth when smiling.

Headgear

An appliance worn outside of the mouth to provide traction for growth modification and tooth movement.

Impaction

A tooth that does not erupt into the mouth or only erupts partially is considered impacted.

Interceptive Treatment

Orthodontic treatment performed to intercept a developing problem. Usually performed on younger patients that have a mixture of primary (baby) teeth and permanent teeth.

Interproximal Reduction

Removal of a small amount of enamel from between the teeth to reduce their width. Also known as reproximation, slenderizing, stripping, enamel reduction or selective reduction.

Labial

The surface of the teeth in both arches that faces the lips.

Ligating Modules

A small elastic o-ring, shaped like a donut, used to hold the archwire in the bracket.

Lingual

The tongue side of the teeth in both arches.

Lip Bumper

A wire appliance used to move the lower molars back and the lower front teeth forward, creating room for crowded front teeth. The lip bumper is an internal wire bow that attaches to the buccal tubes on the cheek side of the lower molar bands inside the mouth. The front portion of the bow has an acrylic pad or bumper that rests against the inside of the lower lip. The lower lip muscles apply pressure to the bumper creating a force that moves the molars back.

Malocclusion

The term used in orthodontics to describe teeth that do not fit together properly. From Latin, the term means "bad bite."

Mandible

Lower jaw.

Maxilla

Upper jaw.

Mixed Dentition

The dental developmental stage in children (approximately ages 6-12) when they have a mix of primary (baby) and permanent teeth.

Mouthguard

A removable device used to protect the teeth and mouth from injury caused by sporting activities. The use of a mouthguard is especially important for orthodontic patients.

Nightguard

A removable appliance worn at night to help an individual minimize the damage or wear while clenching or grinding teeth during sleep.

Open Bite

A malocclusion in which teeth do not make contact with each other. With an anterior open bite, the front teeth do not touch when the back teeth are closed together. With a posterior open bite, the back teeth do not touch when the front teeth are closed together.

Orthodontics

The specialty area of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis, supervision, guidance and correction of malocclusions. The formal name of the specialty is orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.

Orthodontist

A specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are required to complete college requirements, graduate from an accredited dental school and successfully complete a minimum of two academic years of full-time, university-based study at an accredited orthodontic residency program. Only those who have completed this education may call themselves "orthodontists." Orthodontists limit their practice to orthodontic treatment only unless they have training in another dental specialty. Only residency-certified orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Panoramic Radiograph

An x-ray that shows all the teeth and both jaws on one film.

Palatal Expander

A fixed or removable device used to make the upper jaw wider.

Periodontal

Refers to the hard and soft tissue, or supporting structures, around the teeth.

Plaque

Plaque is a colorless, sticky film of bacteria, food particles and saliva that constantly forms in the mouth. Plaque combines with sugars to form an acid that endangers teeth and gums. Plaque causes tooth decay and gum disease.

Posterior

Back.

Preventive Treatment

Orthodontic treatment to prevent or reduce the severity of a developing malocclusion (bad bite).

Removable Appliance

An orthodontic appliance that can be removed from the mouth by the patient. Removable appliances are used to move teeth, align jaws and to keep teeth in their new positions when the braces are removed (retainers).

Retainer

A fixed or removable appliance worn after the braces are removed. A removable retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in their finished positions.

Safety Strap

The safety strap prevents the facebow of the headgear from coming loose and causing injury.

Separators

An elastic o-ring or small wire loop placed between the teeth to create space for placement of bands. Separators are usually placed between the teeth a week before bands are scheduled to be cemented to the teeth.

Space Maintainer

A fixed appliance used to hold space for an unerupted permanent tooth after a primary (baby) tooth has been lost prematurely, due to accident or decay.

Tongue Thrust

An individual's tongue pushes against the teeth when swallowing. Forces generated by the tongue can move the teeth and bone and may lead to an anterior or posterior open bite.

Wax

Wax is placed on the brackets or archwires to prevent them from irritating the lips or cheeks.

Wires

Also known as archwires, they are held in the brackets using small elastic o-rings or stainless steel wire ligatures. Wires are used to move the teeth.

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Testimonial

Success story with braces