Defining Common Orthodontic Terms (M-Z Edition)

August 1, 2017
Carly A. Moran, DDS, MS

Defining Common Orthodontic Terms (M-Z Edition)

In our final attempt to remove any shroud of uncertainty you may feel when visiting our Indianapolis area orthodontic offices, we’re back with a final post in our “Defining Common Orthodontic Terms That Get Lost in Translation” series.

Below you’ll find the M-Z edition—covering everything from “mandibular” to “wax bite.” And if you missed them, check out the full orthodontic vocabulary list in our A-F edition and G-L edition.

– M –


A technical term for anything related to the lower jaw, including the teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances, or facial structures.


A technical term for anything related to the upper jaw, including the teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances, or facial structures.


Another fancy term for a general misalignment of the teeth or jaws.


These are the teeth situated toward the back of your mouth. Most people have first, second, and third molars (wisdom teeth).

– O –


A top-to-bottom, vertical overlapping of the front teeth. In some situations, the lower teeth may no longer be visible when a patient has a very deep overbite.


Described oftentimes as “buck teeth,” overjet refers to how the distance the top teeth extend out away from the lower teeth.


A cell in the body that creates bone.


A cell in the body that removes bone.

– P –

Palatal Expander

An appliance that makes your upper jaw wider by putting gentle pressure on upper molars each time an adjustment is made.

Panoramic X-Rays

An x-ray taken by a machine that rotates around your head to give your orthodontist a picture of your teeth, jaws, and other vital data.

Phase 1 Treatment

We prescribe Phase 1 Treatment for younger patients to establish the proper “foundation” for future dental and facial development as they become adolescents. In these patients, it is typical to see narrow upper and lower jaws or situations where the back teeth are in a crossbite situation.

Phase 2 Treatment

Here, we implement braces, Invisalign, or other orthodontic appliances after all or most of the adult teeth have erupted (i.e., broken through the gums).

– R –


Usually taken before and after braces, your personal records—including cephalometric and panoramic x-rays, digital photos and study models—help your orthodontist determine what treatment needs to be done.

Removable Retainer

Typically worn after Invisalign treatment or once braces are removed, this appliance fits over your upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in the correct position, while the bone around your teeth adjusts to the new positions of your teeth.

– S –

Separator or Spacer

These are small rubber bands flossed between your back teeth to separate adjacent teeth. We need this space to properly fit bands (i.e., rings) around your teeth (usually on the molars).

– U –


In contrast to the overbite, here the lower teeth extend out beyond the upper teeth.

– W –


A clear wax used to prevent your braces from irritating your lips.

Wax Bite

A procedure to measure how well your teeth come together, which helps the orthodontist relate the upper and lower models of your teeth.


So there you have it. The most common orthodontic terms defined. Did we miss anything? Are there other terms you’ve heard around our office that you’d like to know more about?

Let us know in the comments below, and we hope to see you soon!

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  • Love this office! Helpful, professional, and knowledgeable doctor and staff. Haven’t had 1 issue with them. They’ve got their routine down pat.

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    Courtney Amos

    I received Invisalign treatment and had a lot going on. As a mom of two children ,under two years old, it’s tough making doctor appointments but let me tell you they make it work! I was with Dr. Carly at the Westfield office and she always encouraged my little sons to come during my appointments. This made things so much easier for me. The staff at Gorman and Bunch were always welcoming and inviting. They would remember you and are honestly genuine people. Let me tell you it is hard finding good medical practices these days but these people are the best. I forever will recommend Gorman and Bunch to young kiddos and adults.

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    Casey Hood

    I just started my first week with the Invisalign. The staff has been extremely friendly and helpful through every step.

    Dr Carly’s initial evaluation of my case was extremely thorough and the options were explained in detail to help make an informed decision.

    They’ve certainly exceeded my expectation and from the looks of it, they do a great job with their younger patients as well!

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    Patrick May

    I can’t say enough great things about this office. I am legal guardian of my sister and she is going through Invisalign with them… She’s almost done and I am amazed by the results.
    I also go there for continued orthodontic care because orthodontic retention is for life! So glad I have such great people to care for our teeth!!!

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    Veronica Boyle
  • Amazing experience all around. The staff is super friendly and Dr. Carly always makes my daughter feel comfortable with the work being done. We are thrilled with the progress we are seeing, and the customer service is always top notch.

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    Ryder man 645 Lozier

    Excellent every time we’ve brought our kids. Thorough evaluations, knowledgeable doctors/staff, great with kids, and great results

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    Very great place! Went there for my first time today and i felt so comfortable and they are helping me fix my mouth!! Love love love!

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    Haley Elston

    I love this office. The staff and Dr. Carly are great. I’m having amazing results with my program! I highly suggest it to any and everyone!

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    Mark Roberts
  • Amazing experience all around. The staff is super friendly and Dr. Carly always makes my daughter feel comfortable with the work being done. We are thrilled with the progress we are seeing, and the customer service is always top notch.

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    Alyssa Lozier

    Amazing office! My daughter was home from college and had an orthodontic emergency. She was not a previous patient. Dr Moran was kind enough to see her. The entire staff was amazing. I would never go anywhere else!

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    Sharon Hoover

    Personal and professional, everyone always takes great care of my sensitive mouth teen!

    This is our first experience with needing orthodontia, when it’s time for my youngest to get braces, we’ll choose this place again in a heartbeat.

    From the team up front to the team in the back, everyone is so nice and yet so efficiently on task, it is quite impressive.

    They have reasonable pricing and are willing to help with a payment plan.

    Keep up the great work!!

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    Robert Cassidy

    We were very pleased with the staff and services at Gorman & Bunch. From the beginning, they were very friendly and made us feel comfortable with our first ortho visit. Dr. Carly was very nice and attentive. We ended up with braces for my son on the first visit and they were quick and thorough and made our experience very positive. Definitely would recommend them! They are awesome!

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    Donia Shackelford
  • This is the best place to go! Dr. Carly and her staff have made my daughter's smile beautiful.

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    Ruth Perkins

    Friendly staff and inviting atmosphere!!! Very detail oriented with the treatment plan.

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    Lisa H

    Fantastic staff who put the person (and their teeth!) at the center of the experience. Child-friendly waiting areas. I've had nothing but good experiences over my nearly 10 years with Gorman and Bunch. Cannot recommend highly enough!

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    Pete Freeman

    Amazing experience they all made my daughter and I feel very comfortable, all the ladies were extremely nice. Very well informed. Wouldn't go anywhere else!

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    Erica Wood
  • Heather and Dr Carly were awesome! Friendly, informative, and professional. Office was very inviting. We had a great appointment and look forward to the next couple of years of working with them.

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    Andy Tebbe

    This 64 year old had teeth that had begun to overlap in my adult years, which was attributed to having 4 good teeth removed as a child for "Crowded teeth". I waited to fund Invisalign until incurring no penalty for taking IRA funds, other than taxes. I was fortunate to be referred to Dr. Jason Bunch by my dentist, Dr. Jack Nicewander. Dr. Bunch and his Carmel, IN office staff see numerous children and young adults, but welcome the young at heart as well. I trust them and find them accommodating, efficient, professional and compassionate.

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    Joyce Eggleston

    Cannot say enough good things about this practice! I've been to Westfield and Carmel locations, both are beautiful with helpful and friendly staff. Dr Bunch is experienced, knowledgeable, and truly cares about his patients and strives to get the best results possible for each one!

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    Karen Caudle