Orthodontic Glossary

Arch Wire

A wire engaged in orthodontic attachments, affixed to the crowns of two or more teeth and capable of causing or guiding tooth movement.


An orthodontic attachment that is secured to a tooth (either by bonding or banding) for the purpose of engaging an arch wire.  Brackets can be fabricated from metal, ceramic or plastic.

Equilibration (Tooth Filing)

Most orthodontic cases involve crowded teeth, which means that the width of all the teeth within the dental arch exceeds the arch circumference.  It was common 40 years ago to have permanent teeth removed to gain the necessary space, even when the degree of crowding was minimal.  This often resulted in problems – either spacing after treatment, flattening of the profile and according to some experts TMJ problems.

Many cases are still treated today with the removal of permanent teeth, including some cases in our practice.  However, we resort to this only when the crowding or bite problem (malocclusion) is severe.  In lieu of tooth extraction, a technique called interproximal tooth reduction (air rotor stripping ) is performed.  A file is used to slightly and gently re-contour the teeth in the crowded area.  It is completely painless, since there are no nerve endings in the outer layer of teeth and the teeth are not left more susceptible to decay.  Years of clinical research have demonstrated this, and nearly every orthodontist uses this technique.


The misalignment of teeth or when the upper and lower jaws do not fit properly together.  While most malocclusions, or bad bites, are inherited, it is possible to develop bad bites by having such habits as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.  Premature tooth loss of primary teeth or missing permanent teeth can cause a malocculsion.

Mouth Breathing (Obstructed Nasal Passage)

Humans are designed to breath through our noses comfortably.  Patients that predominantly breath through their mouths (either through habit or obstruction) are affected in many ways:

–  Medically: Mouth breathers tend to have more respiratory problems, more colds, more sinus problems, etc.

 Dentally:  Mouth breathers tend to have more dental decay, gum problems and halitosis (bad breath).  They tend to grow long in the face – very vertical facial growth with dental open bites.

–  Physically:  Mouth breathers do not process enough oxygen while they sleep.  They tend to manifest the problems associated with lack of sleep – less alert, groggy, dark rings under their eyes, etc.  Some patients may exhibit opposite effects due to sleep apnea and can be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

–  Socially:  Mouth breathers tend to be sloppy eaters, appear to have a lower IQ, as they walk around with their mouth open and are at a higher risk of choking while eating.

–  Chronic mouth breathing is pathological and should be evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist (Otolaryngologist) for proper treatment.

Orthodontic Diagnostic Records

Once is is determined that orthodontic treatment is necessary either during the initial consultation or a recall visit, diagnostic records are scheduled.  The records consist of x-rays, photos and study models of the patient’s teeth.

These records are used to:

–  Confirm or change the anticipated treatment.

–  Estimate the length of treatment.

–  Reveal any orthodontic concerns that cannot be seen during a clinical evaluation.

–  Predict growth patterns.

–  Determine the appropriate sequence of treatment and appliances.

Passive Alignment and Proper Function

In order to achieve proper tooth eruption and alignment it is important for us to preserve the space available in the dental arches.  If given enough room, the teeth can move into a better alignment without the use of orthodontic appliances.  With a thorough examination and regular monitoring by your orthodontist, we can determine if space management will be beneficial in helping preserve space for your incoming permanent teeth.

Space management is helpful in reducing the need for permanent tooth extraction and lessen the severity of orthodontic problems in the future.


Spacers are small elastics that fit snugly between certain teeth to move them slightly so bands can be placed around them later. Spacers can fall out on their own if enough space has already been created.  To determine if it needs to be replaced, slip some dental floss between the teeth; if it gets stuck, that means the spacer hasn’t created enough room and needs to be replaced prior to your banding appointment.


The “Temporomandibular Joint”, more commonly referred to as the “jaw joint”, assists in the basic opening and closing movements of the jaw.  Unfortunately, this joint is a common area for recurring pain.  TMJ can cause serious side-effects including neck pain, blocked nasal passages, difficulty chewing and headaches.