Common Orthodontic Emergencies and what to do:

First Aid:
What to do in case of emergency:
Call our office as soon as possible if you break or loosen any of your appliances. Please do not come directly to the office - by calling us, you will allow us to create a time to see you. Even if you have a regular appointment scheduled, call us immediately to notify us if you need an appliance repaired.

Loose brackets or bands:
Call our office immediately for advice if a bracket or wire is loosened. The bracket may need to be re-fitted as soon as possible. You may have a situation that requires cutting a wire or sliding a bracket off a wire at night or over the weekend. If you need to cut a wire in case of emergency, you may use fingernail clippers that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. Please call our office the next business day, so that we may schedule an appointment for you.

Wire irritations:
Sometimes discomfort caused by a wire on your braces can be resolved by moving the wire away from the irritated area with a cotton swab or eraser. If the wire will not move, try covering the end of it with a small piece of cotton or a small amount of wax. If the wire is painful, you can cut it with nail clippers or scissors that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. If you cannot resolve the wire irritation, call our office for an appointment.

Lost separators:
Many patients lose a separator during their treatment. Do not worry about losing a separator, but call our office to see if it needs to be replaced.

Discomfort with Orthodontic Treatment:
During the first week after your braces are in place and routine adjustments are complete, you will likely feel some pain, soreness or discomfort. You may take acetaminophen or other non-aspirin pain relievers while you adjust to your new braces. A warm wash cloth or heating pad may reduce the soreness in your jaws.


Angle classification of malocclusion - A classification of malocclusion based on the relationship of upper and lower first molars.
    Class I malocclusion - The relationship of the upper teeth to the lower teeth is good.

    Class II malocclusion - The upper teeth are in a more forward position than the lower teeth and the patient has excess overjet and/or overbite.

    Class III malocclusion - The lower teeth are in a more forward position than the upper teeth and the patient has minimal overjet or negative overjet.

aligner - A clear removable tray that fits over the teeth and is used to move the teeth. A series of aligners is used to move the teeth to the desired position.

arch - Collectively, the teeth of either jaw. Maxillary arch and mandibular arch.

arch form - The shape or form of an individual dental arch.

biteplate or bite plane - Usually it is a removable orthodontic appliance designed to open the bite and/or prevent selected teeth from occluding. Often used to correct issues with overbite.

bonding - The process by which orthodontic appliances are affixed to the teeth with a bonding adhesive.

braces - See fixed appliance.

bruxism - Habitual grinding of the teeth. It is commonly done during sleep.

bracket - An orthodontic attachment that is bonded to a tooth for the purpose of engaging an orthodontic arch wire. Brackets can be metal, ceramic or plastic.

buccal - Toward the cheeks.

button and window, OrthoClear Buttons - used to aid in tooth movement. The button and windows provide retention between the aligner and the teeth. The button is made of tooth colored composite material.

cosmetic orthodontics - Orthodontic therapy whose purpose is limited to improving the appearance of the teeth or face.

crossbite - An abnormal relationship of a tooth or teeth to the opposing teeth, in which normal buccolingual relationships are reversed. Can involve either anterior or posterior teeth.

crowding - Dental malalignment caused by inadequate space for the teeth. Lack of adequate arch length or an arch length deficiency.

debonding - The removal of bonded orthodontic attachments, appliances, or OrthoClear buttons.

deep bite - Excessive overbite; closed bite.

dentition, adolescent - The dentition that is present after the normal loss of primary teeth and prior to cessation of growth.

dentition, adult - The dentition that is present after the cessation of growth that would affect orthodontic treatment.

dentition, mixed - The developmental stage during which both primary and permanent teeth are present in the mouth (approximately 6 to 12 years of age). This dentition is not suitable for OrthoClear.

diagnostic set up - A set up, either done with stone models and wax or with scanned computer images of the teeth, used as a diagnostic tool to evaluate alternative treatment plans, particularly when a tooth size discrepancy exists.

diastema - A space between two teeth.

distal - A direction oriented along the dental arch away from the dental midline; from the midline it is in the posterior direction.

ectopic - Often used to describe a condition in which a tooth develops or erupts in an abnormal position.

edge-to-edge occlusion - An occlusion in which the anterior or posterior teeth of both jaws meet along their incisal or buccal cuspal edges.

elastics (rubber bands) - Used to apply orthodontic force on teeth or arches. Variously used as Class II elastics, Class III elastics, Diagonal elastics, Up-down (vertical) elastics and cross-elastics. Usually made of latex.

equilibrate - Reshaping the occlusal (functional) or incisal surfaces of the teeth to alter the functional relationship; redistributing and balancing the functional load.

facial esthetics - A term pertaining to facial symmetry, balance and proportion.

fixed appliance - An orthodontic appliance whose attachments are bonded or cemented to the teeth and cannot be removed by the patient. Commonly referred to as 'braces'.

full treatment - Comprehensive orthodontic treatment including both upper and lower dental arches.

functional occlusion - An arrangement of the teeth intended to minimize stress on the temporomandibular joint; maximize function, stability and esthetics of the teeth; and provide for protection and health of the periodontal supporting structures.

gingiva - The tissue that surrounds the teeth, consisting of a fibrous tissue that is continuous with the periodontal ligament and mucosal covering.

gingival margin - Where the gingival meets the tooth, at the most occlusal aspect. This important landmark is preserved with the OrthoClear system.

gingival recession - Migration of the gingival margin apically exposing part of the root of the tooth.

hawley retainer - A passive removable acrylic and wire appliance, generally used to stabilize teeth in their new position after orthodontic correction. A metal bar is used on the labial to retain the teeth against acrylic on the lingual of the teeth.

impaction (tooth) - The total or partial lack of eruption of a tooth well after the normal age for eruption.

incisal - Pertaining to the cutting edge of the anterior teeth.

interdigitation - Intercuspation. How the teeth occlude with one another.

interproximal reduction (IPR) - Term used for reproximating or slenderizing mesiodistal width of teeth, usually incisors. A.k.a. stripping

labial - Identifies a surface facing the lips. The same as 'facial' in the anterior portion of the dentofacial complex.

ligament, periodontal - See periodontal ligament.

mesiodistal - The local direction tangent to the ideal arch form and parallel to the occlusal plane; the mesial direction/sense is toward, and the distal direction/sense is away from, the midline of the dentition.

occlusal - Pertaining to the chewing surfaces of the posterior teeth. May be used to identify those tooth surfaces, as well as the direction (upward in the lower arch, downward in the upper).

occlusion - The relationship of the maxillary and mandibular teeth as they are brought into functional contact.

open bite - A malocclusion in which some teeth cannot be brought into contact with opposing teeth. Lack of adequate overbite.

orthodontic - Relating to correction of abnormal dental relationships by movement of the teeth.

orthodontic attachment - The element affixed to the tooth crown that transmits force from the arch wire or auxiliary to the dentition (e.g., an orthodontic button).

orthodontic force - Force generated by the orthodontic appliance that contributes to the correction of a malocclusion.

OrthoView - A Web based program of OrthoClear that allows the clinician and patient to view the patient's proposed clear aligner orthodontic treatment from the beginning to a target position.

over bite - Vertical overlapping of upper teeth over lower teeth, usually measured perpendicular to the occlusal plane. Lack of overbite is an open bite, excessive overbite is a deep bite.

overjet - Horizontal projection of upper teeth beyond the lower teeth, usually measured parallel to the occlusal plane. A negative overjet is called an under bite

palate - The bone and soft tissue closing the space encompassed by the upper alveolar arch. The roof of the mouth.

panoramic radiograph - A radiograph of the jaws, taken with a specialized machine designed to present a panoramic view of the full circumferential length of the jaws on a single film.

papilla (interdental) - The gingival structures occupying the space between adjoining teeth.

periapical - Pertaining to the area and tissues around the apex (root tip) of the root of a tooth.

positioner (tooth positioner) - A removable elastic orthodontic appliance molded to fit the teeth on a 'setup' made by repositioning the teeth from a plaster cast. The material may be rubber or elastomeric plastic. It is typically used to achieve fine adjustments and retain corrected positions during the final stages of treatment.

PVS (a.k.a. VPS) - Polyvinylsiloxane Impression material. This is the material used for taking OrthoClear impressions and bite registrations.

relapse - A partial or full return of malocclusion, which can be seen following orthodontic treatment.

reproximation (slenderizing) - Abrasive reduction of small amounts of enamel from the proximal surfaces of the teeth, in order to reduce the tooth width. Commonly used to create space for crowding, decrease black triangle spaces, or to decrease a tooth size discrepancy.

resorption, root - Physiologic or pathologic removal of hard tissue (root) by the activity of osteoclasts.

retainer - Any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain the position of the teeth following corrective orthodontic therapy.

retention - The passive treatment period following active orthodontic correction during which retaining appliances may be used.

root - That part of the tooth not covered by enamel, normally lying within the alveolus where it is attached to the bone by the periodontal membrane (ligament). The roots displayed in OrthoView are estimated and simulated.

separation - An orthodontic procedure for slightly separating teeth to facilitate placing bands or performing interproximal reduction.

stripping of teeth - See Interproximal reduction

therapeutic diagnosis - An assessment of the objectives and available methods of treatment in light of conditions existing in the individual patient.

tooth positioner - See positioner.

Tooth size discrepancy - Lack of proportional harmony in the width (mesiodistal dimension) of various tooth crowns and the available space in the dental arch, causing relative spacing or crowding in different parts of the dentition.

underbite - An ambiguous non-technical term for negative overjet. (archaic)

unilateral - Denotes one side

wire, orthodontic - A metal wire made of various materials (nickel titanium, stainless steel, etc.) and used to apply force to orthodontic brackets and bands connected to the teeth.

x-bite - Abbreviation for cross bite.

* This glossary is not designed to be an all-inclusive orthodontic glossary.