Deciding to pursue orthodontic care for your child is one of the best decisions you can make. However, you may have difficulty understanding some of the terminologies that you hear. This orthodontic terminology guide can help new patients.


Different from the term used in the household, an “appliance” in dental terminology is essentially a device that is made to move the teeth, or it can be used to keep them in place. Appliances can either be attached or removable, and common types include braces and retainers.


An archwire is a metal wire that goes through a small bracket. Most orthodontic patients will have to wear an archwire on both the top and bottom of their teeth. Archwires are often adjusted during an orthodontic appointment to help guide the teeth into their correct position.


Brackets are small in size, and they are attached to each of the patient’s teeth. They are made out of metal or ceramic, and they are bonded to the tooth using adhesive. Brackets are often worn with an archwire to move the teeth.

Ligature Ties

Made out of a material called stainless steel, ligature ties are used to attach the archwire to the bracket. They are twisted to provide a more secure fit. These ties help move the teeth into place quickly.


A retainer is an appliance that keeps the teeth in place. Once a patient has their braces removed, the orthodontist will require them to wear a retainer so their teeth don’t shift. Often times, a retainer is removable. However, some patients will have a permanent retainer cemented into place.