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Tooth Terminology
Delaney Widen
Head of Patient Experience


Crowding generally refers to teeth that are not straight. It means that your teeth are 'crowded' together, meaning that there is not enough space for all of them to align naturally within your jaw.

This is the most common malocclusion!

Reverse smile arc

When your central incisors (front teeth) appear shorter than your lateral or canines. This is the opposite of the ideal smile arc, which we call the Golden Proportions in orthodontic terms.


When your top front teeth are behind your bottom front teeth.

Open bite

When your top front teeth don't touch your lower front teeth.

This malocclusion makes using your front teeth for anything functional impossible!


When your teeth don't touch each other, which results in either visual spaces or small spaces that aren't visibly noticeable.


When your top and bottom front teeth lie exactly on each other, so that your top teeth don't stick out in front of your bottom teeth at all.

This is generally bad, because it puts unnecessary forces on your front teeth. A healthy bite has about 1mm overjet and 1mm overbite.


When your top teeth stick out over your bottom teeth (horizontally). Not to be confused with overbite which is when your top teeth cover your bottom teeth (vertically). This is the most common layman's term mix up!


When your top front teeth cover your bottom front teeth (vertically). Not to be confused with overjet which is when your top front teeth stick out in front of your lower bottom teeth (horizontally).

Missing teeth

When we reference missing teeth, we are referring to any of the 28 teeth you're supposed to have in either your upper or lower jaw —  meaning your front four incisors, your two canines (think vampire teeth), your four premolars (two on either side), and four molars (two on either side).

These can be missing for several reasons:

  1. Your baby tooth has fallen out and your adult tooth hasn't made its way into your mouth yet.
  2. You were born without these teeth (which is more common than you might think).
  3. You lost one or several of your teeth due to trauma or decay and had to have it pulled out by your dentist.

Misaligned midlines

When the center of your top teeth and the center of your bottom teeth aren't aligned.

Abnormal eruption

When your tooth is replacing your baby tooth in a funny position (think in the middle of your gums or somewhere in your palate), or there isn't enough space for it to come in at all, and it's stuck in your bone.

If you don't see this, don't worry — your orthodontist will let you know at your in-person consultation.


A crossbite is when one or more of your top teeth lie inside of your bottom teeth, closer to your tongue than your lips.

Digital Treatment Plan

This is where the art of orthodontics for clear aligners comes in. Based on an in-person assessment, your orthodontist will engineer a plan that moves your teeth into the ideal position, taking into account your facial and specific teeth features.

More comprehensive cases will require the use of tooth buttons to move your teeth into the most optimal and stable position. Your treatment will require a specific amount of clear aligners tailored to your needs, to be used over time.

Existing dental work

This generally refers to bridgework, dental implants, or crowns. This is important for your orthodontist to know if you’ve had existing dental work, because treatment plans must be created with the understanding that dental implants and bridgework can't be moved. Your orthodontist will need to use a special primer on any teeth with crowns to avoid hurting their surface.


Orthodontists are the specialists in tooth movement, who go through 11 years of higher education to become experts in creating beautiful smiles and functional bites.

This means four years of pre-med, four years of dental school, and three years of orthodontic speciality residency.

Orthodontics is an art, and we encourage you to skim through our resources to better understand why only an orthodontist should be giving you the smile you're looking for — whether through braces or clear aligners.


Clear Aligners are a series of plastic replicas of your teeth that are programmed to gradually move your teeth into their optimal position over time. If we're getting technical, one set of clear aligners can safely move your teeth 0.25-0.3mm over the course of 7-14 days.

Clear aligners are manufactured based on a treatment plan, which needs to be created by your orthodontist. Orthodontics — whether through braces or clear aligners — is an art that involves an in-person intral-oral and facial assessment as moving your teeth affects the aesthetics of your nose, lips, and chin. Orthodontists require three years of specialization after dental school (which includes residency training) to know how to move teeth into their optimal position.

Beware of companies that say that orthodontists 'approve' — not create — your treatment plan. This is the same concept as an architect approving your brand new house for your family from 200 yards away, without ever seeing or understanding the execution!


Orthodontics is the art of tooth movement for the sake of creating a beautiful smile and a functional bite.

Orthodontics is a sub-speciality of dentistry that requires a three-year training after dental school.

Orthodontics can be carried out with either braces or clear aligners.


Tooth buttons (or attachments) are small, tooth-colored buttons that are placed on your teeth in a clinical setting, and are used as handles to anchor clear aligners to naturally slippery teeth.

Tooth buttons are prescribed by your orthodontist and in specific shapes and sizes, and are used in conjunction with clear aligners to move your teeth into their optimal position. Note: you need an orthodontist to apply your tooth buttons in person.

An orthodontist’s goal is to use the least amount of strategically placed tooth buttons to give you your most beautiful smile during treatment.

Placement takes approximately 5-15 minutes, depending on the number of tooth buttons in your treatment plan. And don't worry, there’s no pain involved!

Interproximal reduction (IPR)

Interproximal reduction is a procedure that makes room to align crowded teeth. It involves slimming teeth using a thin strip. There are a few things you should know about this procedure:

  1. This isn't as easy as filing your nails and should only be done by a dental professional. Your orthodontist monitors the amount of enamel removed to make sure that only a healthy amount is removed to prevent any sensitivity.
  2. It's pain-free, but can feel a bit uncomfortable and sound funny.
  3. The reason we do this is to make space to straighten teeth. However, this is only one way to resolve crowding; other ways involve proclining your teeth or removing teeth. The choice is completely personalized based on your treatment plan, along with your facial aesthetics and gum type.


Elastics are used to correct sagittal malocclusions, or side bite problems. These include underbites, edge-to-edge bites, and overjets.

Elastics must be worn for at least 12 hours per day to be effective, but your orthodontist can tell you exactly how long you need to wear them.


Chewies are aligner seaters, which help your aligners seat over your tooth buttons, so that your aligners fit snugly and move your teeth as best they can.

Names of teeth


You have eight incisors — which are your front top and bottom teeth — located between your canines.


Canines are your 'vampire teeth' that you use to tear open bags, bite your nails, and chew through chewy food. They are in between your incisors and your molars.