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Orthodontics Terminology

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In braces, the archwire is attached to the brackets by ligature wires. The arch wires are what actually move your teeth during orthodontic treatment. Your archwires will be adjusted throughout your treatment to guide your teeth to their ideal positions.

Band and Loop (B&L)

A Band and Loop is used to hold the space of a primary tooth that is lost too soon until the permanent tooth grows in.


Brackets are the part of your braces that are attached to the surface of the teeth. The archwire is attached to the brackets.

Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Elastics can be used to coordinate the upper and lower teeth and perfect your bite. Wear your elastics as directed for desired results.

Functional Appliances

Functional appliances can aid in modifying the growth of the jaws in children.


Headgear, which is often called a night brace, is used to correct a protrusion of the lower or upper jaw. Headgear keeps the upper jaw from growing forward or downward or encourages the teeth to move forward.

Herbst Appliance

The Herbst Appliance encourages the growth of the lower jaw, so it can catch up to the upper jaw’s growth.

Lower Lingual Arch (LLHA)

This is a space maintainer for the lower teeth. A lower lingual holding arch keeps the molars where they are. Bands are placed on the molars that connect them to a wire that fits against the inside of the lower teeth. An LLHA is used if baby teeth are lost too soon or if the lower teeth are slightly crowded in a growing child.

O Rings

O rings are used to attach the archwire to the brackets. O rings are usually gray or clear, but they are also available in a variety of colors to make your orthodontic experience more fun. Your O rings will be changed at every appointment, so you can try out many different colors during treatment.

Palatal Widening Appliance (Palatal Expander)

This appliance is placed on the roof of the mouth to develop the upper arch. To care for your palatal widening appliance, brush your teeth as usual. Thoroughly brush the roof of your mouth and the appliance. To clean any food lodged between the appliance and the upper arch, rinse often.


After the active phase of orthodontic treatment is complete, the braces are removed, and a retainer is placed. These removable appliances hold the teeth in their new positions until the tissues and bone surrounding the tooth roots settle into place. If they are not retained, the teeth can shift back to their former positions, so it is extremely important to wear your retainer as instructed.


A separator is a small rubber or plastic donut-shaped piece that is used to create space before bands are fitted.

We encourage you to contact OPDSF Orthodontics at (415) 681-8500 today to learn more about orthodontics and to schedule your next visit with our orthodontist in San Francisco, California. Dr. Peter Lee and our team look forward to helping you achieve a straight, beautiful smile!