In our final attempt to remove any shroud of uncertainty you may feel when visiting our Indianapolis area orthodontic offices, we’re back with a final post in our “Defining Common Orthodontic Terms That Get Lost in Translation” series.

Below you’ll find the M-Z edition—covering everything from “mandibular” to “wax bite.” And if you missed them, check out the full orthodontic vocabulary list in our A-F edition and G-L edition.

– M –


A technical term for anything related to the lower jaw, including the teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances, or facial structures.


A technical term for anything related to the upper jaw, including the teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances, or facial structures.


Another fancy term for a general misalignment of the teeth or jaws.


These are the teeth situated toward the back of your mouth. Most people have first, second, and third molars (wisdom teeth).

– O –


A top-to-bottom, vertical overlapping of the front teeth. In some situations, the lower teeth may no longer be visible when a patient has a very deep overbite.


Described oftentimes as “buck teeth,” overjet refers to how the distance the top teeth extend out away from the lower teeth.


A cell in the body that creates bone.


A cell in the body that removes bone.

Did you miss out on terms G-L?

Get Caught Up

– P –

Palatal Expander

An appliance that makes your upper jaw wider by putting gentle pressure on upper molars each time an adjustment is made.

Panoramic X-Rays

An x-ray taken by a machine that rotates around your head to give your orthodontist a picture of your teeth, jaws, and other vital data.

Phase 1 Treatment

We prescribe Phase 1 Treatment for younger patients to establish the proper “foundation” for future dental and facial development as they become adolescents. In these patients, it is typical to see narrow upper and lower jaws or situations where the back teeth are in a crossbite situation.

Phase 2 Treatment

Here, we implement braces, Invisalign, or other orthodontic appliances after all or most of the adult teeth have erupted (i.e., broken through the gums).

– R –


Usually taken before and after braces, your personal records—including cephalometric and panoramic x-rays, digital photos and study models—help your orthodontist determine what treatment needs to be done.

Removable Retainer

Typically worn after Invisalign treatment or once braces are removed, this appliance fits over your upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in the correct position, while the bone around your teeth adjusts to the new positions of your teeth.

– S –

Separator or Spacer

These are small rubber bands flossed between your back teeth to separate adjacent teeth. We need this space to properly fit bands (i.e., rings) around your teeth (usually on the molars).

– U –


In contrast to the overbite, here the lower teeth extend out beyond the upper teeth.

– W –


A clear wax used to prevent your braces from irritating your lips.

Wax Bite

A procedure to measure how well your teeth come together, which helps the orthodontist relate the upper and lower models of your teeth.

So there you have it. The most common orthodontic terms defined. Did we miss anything? Are there other terms you’ve heard around our office that you’d like to know more about?

Let us know in the comments below, and we hope to see you soon!

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