Defining Common Orthodontic Terms That Get Lost in Translation (A-F Edition)

December 1, 2016
Carly A. Moran, DDS, MS

Defining Common Orthodontic Terms That Get Lost in Translation (A-F Edition)

Having an opportunity to work with over 19,000 patients across Central Indiana, our orthodontic staff has all seen “the look.” You can’t be in business for 54 years and not see it.

It’s the glazed eye, furrowed brow look of perplexity. It’s the face we all get (and give) when hearing a language we don’t quite understand. And in our offices, it’s the reaction we see from clients after our staff utters a slew of unfamiliar jargon.

We’re guilty of it from time to time. We admit. But we’re also here to help clear up some of the things lost in translation. Below, we’ve compiled an alphabetical list of common terms and phrases in the orthodontic industry—just A to F for now—and tried to explain them in words we all can understand.

Prepare Your Child for Their First Orthodontic Appointment

– A –


No, it’s not countertop equipment designed by Kitchen-Maid. An orthodontic appliance is simply any device we affix to your teeth to realign your jaw and/or adjust the placement of your teeth. Some examples of orthodontic appliances include palatal expanders, quads, lingual holding arches, and retainers.


Every mouth has its own unique dental arch—or curve of your jaw from one molar to another. When in braces, this metal wire spans this shape, connects the orthodontic brackets on your teeth, and shifts your teeth into proper place. We tend to replace the archwire periodically throughout your treatment.

– B –


These metal rings fit around your molars—those teeth in the back of your mouth—and secure the base of the archwire (see above) via a safe, oral adhesive application.


The archwire wraps around your dental arch and slides into brackets, which are cemented to the front of your teeth. For years, brackets only came in shiny metal materials. But nowadays, Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics patients can select either metal or ceramic brackets in an endless variety of designs and colors.

– C –

Coil Spring

When patients require more space between teeth (see crowding below), we fit the coil spring between the target brackets and over your archwire.


With properly aligned jaws, the upper teeth sit slightly over the lower teeth. But with crossbites, the upper teeth are displaced behind the lower teeth or the lower jaw protrudes out beyond the upper jaw (a.k.a. underbite).


As the name implies, the term crowding indicates a lack of sufficient space for teeth along the dental arch. Sometimes this occurs when teeth are especially large. But other times, it’s due to a variety of factors such as top or bottom jaws that are too narrow, genetics, thumb sucking as a child that resulted in a narrower dental arch, and more. Crowding can cause some teeth to have inadequate space to come in normally on their own, otherwise known as impacted teeth.

– D –

D.D.S. and D.M.D.

Depending on the dental school, graduates are either awarded their Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (D.M.D.) degree. (All Gorman & Bunch orthodontists have been awarded D.D.S. degrees.) For orthodontists, it’s the requisite education level between a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in orthodontics.

Deciduous Teeth

Most often associated with trees or shrubs, the term deciduous simply means “that which falls off.” And so in the dental world, it’s your first set of teeth that eventually fall out—also known as baby or primary teeth.

– E –


More commonly referred to as rubber bands, these small elastic rings get hooked by our patients from a bracket on the upper teeth to a bracket on the lower teeth—pulling jaws and teeth into proper alignment.


Also known as a palatal expander, we secure this device to the upper molars in order to widen the upper jaw (see crossbite definition above). Patients gradually expand their upper palate by inserting a small key into the expander and turning it slightly each day. Patients feel light pressure while turning the expander, but overall it’s a relatively painless process. Watch the short video below to see the process.

– F –

Fixed Retainer

Unlike their cousin appliance that can be quickly and easily removed by patients, the stainless steel fixed retainers get permanently bonded to the backside of the front teeth to prevent teeth shifting over time.


So there you have it. What did we miss? What else have you heard while lounging in our orthodontic chair that we can explore in a future blog post? Let us know in the comments section below!


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  • 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

    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

    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

    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
  • 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

    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

    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

    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 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

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

    Stephanie Avatar

    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

    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
  • 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

    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

    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

    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 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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    Alyssa Lozier