Glossary of Orthodontic Appliances

By January 9, 2017 July 7th, 2017 Blog, FAQ's

Glossary of Orthodontic Appliances

Happy New Year from Dougherty Orthodontics! Our resolution for the new year is to keep bringing you helpful info regarding your child’s orthodontic treatment. As always, our goal is to provide each and every one of our patients with a healthy, beautiful smile. In order to do so, we may need to use several different orthodontic appliances during the course of your child’s treatment. You probably already know about braces and retainers, but what about ligatures, archwires, and palatal expanders? To help you out, we’ve put together a glossary of common orthodontic terms and appliances.

Glossary of Braces and Orthodontic Appliances

Parts of Braces

  • Archwires: Wires that apply force to move the teeth.
  • Bands: Metal rings that wrap around the back teeth and anchor the archwires.
  • Brackets: The parts of braces that are bonded to the teeth. They have slots that hold the archwires.
  • Elastics: Rubber bands that hook onto the braces to move the teeth and jaws.
  • Ligatures: Small elastic ties or rings that fasten the archwires to the brackets. When multiple ligatures are connected together, they are called a chain or powerchain.
  • Types of braces: Click on the following links to learn about alternatives to traditional metal braces—including ceramic braces (a.k.a. clear braces), Invisalign (a.k.a. clear aligners), and Incognito (a.k.a. hidden braces).

Other Orthodontic Parts and Appliances

  • Bite plate: An appliance used to correct a deep bite by keeping chewing forces off the back teeth, thus allowing the back teeth to erupt.
  • Protraction headgear: A removable appliance that helps to bring the upper jaw forward when an underbite is present in a growing child.
  • Forsus springs:  While traditional headgear has long been the “gold standard” for fixing an overbite, our office prefers to use the modern, more aesthetic alternative: forsus springs. This appliance promotes growth in adolescents, helping to eliminate excessive overbites, improve the fit of teeth, and possibly prevent the need for jaw surgery.
  • Build-ups: These temporary props on the back molar teeth allow the braces to correct a deep overbite without damaging tooth enamel or breaking braces. You’ll often hear us call them “bite pillows.”
  • Mouth guards: Protective gear worn over the teeth during sports and high-impact activities. Click here to learn why mouth guards are so important.
  • Palatal expander: Widens or “expands” the upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on the upper molars.
  • Retainers: Removable or fixed (a.k.a. permanent) appliances that keep the teeth from shifting after braces have been removed. Click here to learn about permanent retainers.

Want more helpful info regarding your child’s orthodontic treatment? Check out our previous post: Parental FAQs About Braces.

Have questions about orthodontic appliances or other orthodontic terms? Contact us. Call our office at 636.825.1000 or email We’re happy to help!