Dental Glossary: Learn More from Your Orthodontist & Pediatric Dentistry in Chapel Hill

Welcome to Clifton & Mauney, your Chapel Hill’s trusted orthodontists and pediatric dentists! Our doctors work diligently to help you improve your smile through quality orthodontic treatment as well as keep it healthy with dental care. We also want to make sure you understand your orthodontic treatment process — that’s why we’ve put together the following orthodontic glossary to help you better understand what your Chapel Hill braces or other orthodontic treatment may entail.


An orthodontic appliance is anything worn in your mouth, such as braces or aligners, that’s involved in straightening your teeth and/or improving your bite.


An orthodontic archwire is a wire that is crucial in guiding tooth movement with braces. The wire attaches to each bracket on your braces to connect all the brackets together.


A thin metal ring typically made of stainless steel that is designed to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. A band fits the contours of the tooth and is cemented into place.


Made from either metal, ceramic, or plastic, each bracket of your braces is an attachment that is secured to a tooth to attach to an archwire.

Ceramic Brackets

These are clear brackets made of a translucent ceramic material to make your orthodontic treatment discreet.


A chain made of elastic that is used to hold the archwire of your braces onto the brackets of your braces.

Coil Spring

A spring that fits between the brackets on braces and over the archwire to open space between the teeth.


The process by which your orthodontist removes the cemented orthodontic bands from your teeth.


Small rubber bands available in several colors that are used to tie the archwire into the brackets. These allow you to make your orthodontic treatment personal and fun!

Fixed Retainer

A permanent retainer that is bonded to the backside of the teeth to prevent the teeth from moving back into their original positions after treatment with braces has ended.

Habit Appliance

An appliance used to help break a thumb or finger sucking habit, which (left untreated) can lead to poor teeth alignment and bite issues.


An extraoral or ‘outside the mouth’ appliance used to influence growth, move teeth, and to provide anchorage. Headgear is attached around the backside of the head.

Herbst Appliance

A fixed or removable appliance that is used to treat overbites and other problems.


An imprint or mold of the teeth used by your Chapel Hill orthodontist to plan your treatment.

Interceptive Treatment

Also known as early treatment, interceptive treatment is typically performed between the ages of six and ten. This phase of treatment makes future treatment faster and less invasive.

Lingual Appliances

Orthodontic appliances bonded to the lingual or tongue-side of the teeth.

MARA Appliance

A growth appliance used to treat an overbite by positioning the lower jaw forward.


Of or pertaining to the upper jaw. This term can be used to describe teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances, or facial structures.


A mouthpiece that is designed to be worn over the teeth to protect the teeth and braces from harm when playing sports.

Palatal Expander

An orthodontic appliance that is attached to the upper molars to create a wider space in the upper jaw.

Radiograph (X-ray)

A permanent image, typically on film that is produced by ionizing radiation.


An orthodontic appliance that is either fixed or removable, that’s provided by your orthodontist in Chapel Hill and worn after braces to prevent the teeth from shifting back into their original positions.


Also called a spacer, a separator is a small elastic that fits snugly between teeth to move them slightly so bands can be placed around the teeth later.


Special orthodontic wax that is placed on a rubbing bracket or poking wire to ease discomfort. This can be provided by your pediatric dentist and orthodontist in Chapel Hill.

Contact Your Orthodontist and Pediatric Dentist in Chapel Hill

As your trusted orthodontist and pediatric dentist in Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas, Drs. Clifton & Mauney strive to make sure all our patients feel comfortable and informed about their treatment process. If you have any questions about any of the terms in our glossary, please feel free to contact us for the answers you need. We enjoy educating our orthodontic patients so they better understand how their treatment with braces works! Request an appointment today to start your journey towards a straighter smile. We look forward to hearing from you!