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Orthodontic Terms

Orthodontic Terms

Arch Wire

Ortho Terms

The arch wire is the part of your braces which actually moves the teeth. The arch wire is attached to the brackets by small elastic O-rings or ligature wires. The arch wires that are used are made of “space age” materials. Unlike wires in the past which were uncomfortable because they created a lot of force for a short period of time, today’s arch allow for more gentle forces over a longer time thus diminishing the reports of patient discomfort. These “space age” wires are made of highly flexible nickel titanium materials. Wires are adjusted and changed throughout treatment, and each change brings you closer to ideal tooth positioning.


Brackets are the small attachments that are bonded directly to the tooth surface. The brackets are the part of your braces to which the dentist or assistant attaches the arch wire.

Occasionally, a bracket may come loose and become an irritation to your mouth. You can remove the loose bracket and save it in an envelope to bring to the office. If a bracket becomes loose, call the office as soon as possible and make an appointment to re-attach the bracket.

O Rings

O rings, also called A-lastics, are little rings used to hold the arch wire in the brackets. These rings come in a wide variety of colors to make braces more fun. A-lastics are changed at every appointment to maintain secure placement of the arch wire in the bracket slot, enabling patients to enjoy many different color schemes throughout treatment.

Wire Ties

Although O rings (A-lastics) are the most common method of holding the arch wire in the bracket there are times when a wire is used to secure the wire. These wire ties are especially useful to complete correction of tooth rotations.


Some brackets have hooks or posts on them. These hooks or posts are used when using power chain to close spaces or elastics to improve the position of the upper and lower jaw.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

At some time during treatment, it may be necessary to wear elastics to coordinate the upper and lower teeth and perfect the bite. Wear your elastics as instructed by Dr. West, once teeth begin to move in response to elastics, they move rapidly and comfortably. If elastics (rubber bands) are worn intermittently, they will continually cause soreness. When elastics are worn one day and left off the next, treatment slows to a standstill or stops altogether. Take your elastics off while brushing your teeth. Change elastics as directed, usually once or twice a day.

Power Chain

A power chain is similar to O-rings. It is a continuous link of O-rings which can be stretched over the brackets on several or all of the teeth to move teeth or close spaces between teeth.

Coil Springs

Coil springs can be either opened coil or closed coil. Opened coil springs are compressed between teeth to help create or open spaces. Closed coil spring is stretched between teeth to close spaces.



A separator is a plastic or rubber donut piece which the orthodontist uses to create space between your teeth prior to placing bands.


Often called a night brace, headgear is used to correct a protrusion of the upper or lower jaw. It works by inhibiting forward and downward growth of upper jaw.

Reverse Headgear

Infrequently a young child may exhibit a growth pattern known as a Class III malocclusion. In this malocclusion the growth of the lower jaw exceeds the growth of the upper jaw. If the abnormal growth pattern Is due to poor posterior position of the upper jaw an appliance can be used to stimulate maxillary (upper) jaw growth.