Helpful Terms

Commonly used pediatric dentistry & orthodontics terminology. If you have any questions or would like further clarification, please don’t hesitate to call 704-377-3687.
Pediatric Dentistry Terms

Infection in the tooth most commonly caused by severe tooth decay or trauma.


Hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar.

Cavity (Caries)

A hole in the tooth caused by decay.

Digital radiograph (X-ray) 

An image produced by projecting radiation, as x-rays, on computers

  • Bitewing radiograph: shows the crowns of the upper and lower teeth in one picture
  • Periapical (PA) radiograph: shows the crown and root structures of teeth in an area
  • Panoramic radiograph: shows entire upper and lower jaws, including teeth, bone and TMJ

The hard outer surface of the tooth.


A gentle acid used to prepare the tooth surface for bonding and filling material/sealant.


A tool used to check teeth for cavities.


Removal of a tooth.


Material similar to tooth structure (like composite resin) used to fill a tooth after cavity is removed.


A chemical solution used to harden teeth and prevent decay.


Swollen or inflamed gums caused by plaque around the teeth.


Gum tissue.

Local Anesthetic

Elimination of sensation in one part of the body by applying a drug.

Mouth prop

Dental instrument used to keep mouths open and steady during dental procedures.

Nitrous oxide

Sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over the nose to produce calming effect.


The way in which the teeth come together when the mouth closes.


A sticky buildup of acids and bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Primary teeth

Baby teeth; also called deciduous teeth.


The nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth.


Pulp cap

A medicated covering over a small area of exposed pulp tissue.


Complete removal of the pulp (commonly done in children’s teeth).



Inflammation of the pulp, which is common cause of toothache.



Partial removal of the pulp tissue.

Rubber dam

 A square piece of vinyl or rubber used to isolate the teeth during a filling or other treatment.

Rubber dam clamp

A ring or button that hugs the back-most tooth in an area isolated with a rubber dam.


Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.


Clear or white layer of material that can be applied to the grooves or pits of molars that can prevent cavities by keeping out food and bacteria.

Space maintainers

Removable or fixed appliances designed to prevent tooth movement.

Stainless steel crown

An artificial tooth cover made of stainless steel.

Orthodontic Terms

Anything your orthodontist attaches to your teeth that moves your teeth or changes the shape of your jaw.


The metal wire that acts as a track to guide your teeth as they move. It is changed periodically throughout treatment as your teeth move to new positions.


A metal ring that is cemented to your tooth, going completely around it. Bands provide a way to attach brackets to your teeth.


The seal created by orthodontic cement that holds your appliances in place.


A metal or ceramic part cemented (“bonded”) to your tooth that holds your archwire in place.

Coil Spring

A spring that fits between your brackets and over your arch wire to open space between your teeth.

Elastic (Rubber Band)

A small rubber band that is hooked between different points on your appliance to provide pressure to move your teeth to a new position.

Elastic Tie

The tiny rubber band that fits around your bracket to hold the archwire in place. They come in a variety of colors.


Headgear uses an external wire apparatus known as a facebow to gently guide the growth of your face and jaw by moving your teeth into proper position. The force is applied to the facebow by a spring-loaded neck strap or head strap. The straps have a safety release that disconnects if the facebow is pulled or snagged.

Headgear Tube

A round, hollow attachment on your back bands. The inner bow of your headgear fits into it.


A welded or removable arm to which elastics are attached.


A thin wire that holds your archwire into your bracket.

Lip Bumper

A lip bumper is an archwire attached to a molded piece of plastic. The lip bumper holds back the molars on your lower jaw to provide more space for your other teeth.


A device that protects your mouth from injury when you participate in sports or rigorous activities.

Palatal Expander

A device that makes your upper jaw wider.


An appliance that is worn after your braces are removed, the retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth to hold them in place. Some retainers are removable, while others are bonded to the tongue-side of several teeth.

Separator or Spacer

A small rubber ring that creates space between your teeth before the bands are attached.

Tie Wire

A fine wire that is twisted around your bracket to hold the archwire in place.


Wax is used to stop your braces from irritating your lips.

Orthodontic Procedures

The process of fitting and cementing orthodontic bands to your teeth.


The process of attaching brackets to your teeth using special orthodontic cement.

Cephalometric X-ray

An X-ray of your head that shows the relative positions and growth of the face, jaws, and teeth.


A meeting with your orthodontist to discuss a treatment plan.


The process of removing cemented orthodontic bands from your teeth.


The process of removing cemented orthodontic brackets from your teeth.


A model of your mouth made by biting into a soft material that hardens into a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use these impressions to prepare your treatment plan.

Invisalign ®

An alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign straightens your teeth with a series of clear custom-molded aligners. Invisalign can correct some, but not all, orthodontic problems.


The process of attaching an archwire to the brackets on your teeth.

Panoramic X-ray

An X-ray that rotates around your head to take pictures of your teeth, jaw, and other facial areas.