Orthopedic/Orthodontic Dictionary

The following are the most commonly used terms in orthopedics/orthodontics.  If you have any questions about orthopedics/orthodontics or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our office.

Anterior Teeth: The upper and lower six front teeth on each arch.

Appliance: Any orthopedic device which re-directs bone growth and tooth movement. 
Arch: The entire upper or lower jaw.

Braces: Fixed orthodontic appliances designed to align teeth.

Brushing: This is a crucial part of home dental care.  Dentists recommend brushing after every meal and snack to eliminate bacteria and plaque.

Buccal: The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the lower and upper arches.

Cephalometric Radiograph: A side x-ray of the face and head used to show growth and development. 

Class I Malocclusion: Molars are correctly aligned, but there is an anterior/posterior crossbite, an openbite or overcrowding on the arches.

Class II Malocclusion: Also known as an overbite.  The upper front teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth.

Class III Malocclusion: Also known as an underbite.  The lower front teeth are positioned further forward than the upper front teeth.

Closed Bite: The upper front teeth completely overlap the bottom teeth causing a deep overbite.

Congenitally Missing Teeth: Some permanent teeth fail to develop and erupt due to genetic factors.

Crossbite: A malocclusion in which the upper back teeth bite inside or outside the lower back teeth, or the lower front teeth bite in front of the upper front teeth.

Dentofacial Orthopedics and Orthodontics:  The unique branch of dentistry concerned with diagnosing, preventing and correcting malocclusions and jaw irregularities.

Diagnostic Records: Records used to assess, plan and implement treatments.  These records usually include medical and dental history, radiographs, panoramic radiographs, bite molds and intraoral/extraoral photographs.

Digital Radiograph: Digital x-rays of the teeth which can be viewed, stored and transmitted via computer.

Eruption: The way in which teeth surface through the gums inside the mouth.

Fixed Orthodontic Appliances: Orthodontic appliances which are affixed to the teeth by the orthodontist and cannot be removed by the patient.

Flossing: An essential part of home care that removes debris and plaque from above and below the gumline.

Functional Appliances: Orthopedic appliances that use the muscle movement created by swallowing, eating and speaking to gently develop the growth and shaping of the jaws (the mandible and maxillary).  In doing so, the proper alignment of teeth is achieved.  This functional treatment if initiated at a proper age avoids the extraction of teeth.   

Gingiva: The gums and soft tissue around the teeth.

Impressions: Teeth impressions are taken to allow the dentist to see exactly how a patient’s teeth fit together.

Interceptive Treatment: Dentofacial orthopedic treatment performed on children who have a mixture of adult and baby teeth.  Early treatment can help reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment in the future.

Lingual Side: The side of the teeth (in both arches) that is closest to the tongue.

Malocclusion: Literally means “bad bite” in Latin, and refers to teeth that do not fit together correctly.

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Mouthguard: A removable plastic or rubber device that protects teeth and braces from sporting injuries.

Open Bite: Upper and lower teeth fail to make contact with each other.  This malocclusion is generally classified as anterior or posterior.

Panoramic Radiograph: An extraoral (external) x-ray that shows the teeth and jaws.

Plaque: The sticky film of saliva, food particles and bacteria that contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.

Posterior Teeth: Back teeth.

Removable Appliance: An Orthopedic device that can be removed at will by the patient.  It must be worn for the designated amount of time each day to be effective.

Space Maintainer: A fixed appliance used to hold space for permanent (adult) tooth.  This is usually used when a baby tooth has been lost earlier than anticipated.