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At Lineberger Orthodontics, we are dental nerds at heart, and sometimes we use lingo our patients may not understand. Our orthodontic dictionary gives some basic definitions so you’re better able to understand your treatment. Dr. Matt Lineberger, Dr. Megan Lineberger, Dr. Claire Fedore and Dr. Bhaven Sayania, offer orthodontic treatments for the residents of Charlotte, Elizabeth, Huntersville and surrounding communities in North Carolina.

Like other medical professionals, orthodontists have their own lingo to describe treatments and the tools we use. We try to watch for signs our patients are perplexed by what we’re describing, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. If you ever feel confused or unclear about your treatments, please ask us to pause and explain. You can also review our orthodontic dictionary to learn about some of the more common words we use.


As we talk about orthodontic appliances, you may imagine some large piece of equipment being added to your kitchen and wonder how this is going to straighten your teeth. When we refer to “appliances,” we mean anything attached to your teeth, directly or indirectly. We won’t be remodeling your kitchen.

Orthodontic Dictionary in Charlotte and Huntersville, NC


The wires you see on traditional braces are the archwires. These wires help guide your teeth into the new position. We may change out your archwires over the course of your treatment.


We may mention bands and metal bands. No need to send out invites for a party with live music. Bands are metal loops that surround certain teeth. The bands may cover almost the entire tooth, and they’re used as a foundation for brackets and other parts of the braces.


Archwires are connected to brackets, and the brackets are bonded to your tooth. The brackets may be made of metal or ceramic.

Coil Spring

For the automotive aficionados, a coil spring is a part of the vehicle’s suspension that absorbs shock. In orthodontics, coil springs are placed over the archwire and between the brackets to help create space between the teeth.

Elastics and Rubber Bands

Elastics and rubber bands are used to move your teeth in a certain direction. By attaching the bands to specific points, known as hooks, your orthodontist controls the direction in which your teeth move.


Not to be confused with reading material, ligature is a small wire that holds the archwire.

Lip Bumper

A lip bumper is not your new love interest, but a piece of plastic attached to the archwire to prevent the molars from shifting, thus allowing more room for your other teeth.

Palatal Expander

If your jaw needs to be widened, we may include a palatal expander in your orthodontic appliance.


Parents are often confused by the term “retainer” because it is most often associated with securing the services of an attorney. In orthodontics, a retainer is a standalone appliance used after the braces are removed. You may need a retainer for your upper and/or lower teeth to prevent them from shifting out of place. Retainers are most often used on a short-term basis, but some people do need lifetime retainers.

Spacer or Separator

Before you get your braces, we may place spacers or separators between your teeth. This is because your teeth are too close together to accommodate the bands needed for your braces.


Dental wax is used to cover parts of the braces that may irritate the lips, gums and cheeks. It can also be used in emergency situations, such as broken wires and loose brackets.

Communication is key in orthodontic treatment, and our orthodontic dictionary helps you understand some of the terminology we use. Lineberger Orthodontics offers orthodontic treatments for the residents of Charlotte, Elizabeth, Huntersville and surrounding communities in North Carolina. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

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