Dental Terminology

ABUTMENT (For a bridge)

An abutment for a bridge uses two or more teeth to fill the toothless space. An abutment is a prepared tooth.


This is a plastic widely used in dentistry for various purposes.

  1. Acrylic resin is used in making impression trays.
  2. Acrylic veneer is a tooth-colored layer of plastic placed over the surface of a crown or tooth.
  3. Acrylic temporary
    1. Once a tooth is prepared for a crown, a temporary crown is placed in the mouth. This is fabricated through a direct technique performed by your dentist. The acrylic temporary will provide similar function while your permanent tooth is being made.
    2. In some cases, a dentist may determine that an acrylic crown (temporary) needs to be fabricated for long term use. In this case, a heat and pressure cured acrylic is used.

There are numerous alloys used in the making of dental restorations. The following alloy classifications, set by the American Dental Association Council on Dental Materials, will be helpful to you when reading this web page:

  • High noble alloys have a noble metal content of 60% or greater. At least 40% must be gold.
  • Noble alloys have a noble metal content of at least 25%.
  • Predominantly base alloys are less than 25% noble metal.
NOTE: Noble metals include gold, platinum and palladium. (Source: Identalloy® Council)


A metal or plastic device designed with a hinge to reproduce the open, close and side-to-side movement of the lower jaw.


Bonding is a process that allows for a strong connection between a dental material and your tooth. This is the most effective seal in dentistry today.


A bridge is a dental restoration that spans an area that has no teeth, and is connected to natural teeth at each end. (Refer to crown and bridge for details)


See Porcelain


A composite is a tooth-colored material often used in place of amalgam. There are many proven composite systems on the market. The successful evolution of bonding procedures, adhesives and composite materials have been documented since 1986. There are two types of materials widely used and accepted and they are classified as hybrids or microfills.

  1. ConceptTM is one manufacturers name for their microfill material used in inlay/onlay composite fabrication. This material gives superior esthetics and is exceptionally gentle to your other teeth.
  2. Herculite XRVTM is a hybrid composite similar to Concept in appearance and wear characteristics.
The primary difference between hybrid and microfill composites are as follows:
  1. Microfills have very small particle size. The advantage is that their wear resistance, polishablity and esthetics are very high; however, they are not good for bonding procedures during placement.
  2. Hybrids have large particle sizes and are extremely good at bonding and allow for some patients the possibility to have a bridge made.

A crown reproduces all of the same
aspects of a natural tooth. Once a
tooth has been trimmed down and
decay has been removed, it is
impressioned so that it will be able to
be reproduced in dental stone. A
dental technician, an experienced
craftsman, utilizes dental alloys, ceramics, acrylics or composites to reproduce an esthetic, hygienic and functional tooth.


When a dentist determines that a tooth needs a crown, a treatment plan is established. When the appearance of the crown is crucial, a metal-free crown may be prescribed. This allows for a more natural look.
Within recent years the all-ceramic crown (otherwise known as porcelain) has evolved. The ceramic materials used today have been studied with excellent results for long-term success. There are various materials that can be used in making a metal-free crown . . . .


is an important part of dental services. This specialty deals with the design, fabrication and repair of dental appliances (crowns, complete dentures, removable partial dentures, crown and bridge) under the direction and supervision of the dentist.

Once the dentist establishes the treatment plan and the tooth or teeth are prepared, an impression is made of your mouth and sent to the laboratory. There are several fabrication phases and checkpoints within a dental lab that contribute to the end result. Refer to Crown and Bridge to see how a crown is made.

In as much as it takes years of experience and training to develop these technical skills, this is not a specialty that requires mandatory licensing or certification. There are approximately only 5,500 Certified Dental Technicians in the United States today and approximately 50,000 employed dental technicians.


For our purposes, we refer to the direct technique being a procedure performed by the dentist chairside. For example, an amalgam filling is a direct procedure. Many of the procedures listed in dental cosmetics may be performed directly or indirectly. There are applications for each of these techniques. The primary advantage to the direct technique is that they are performed and usually completed in one appointment. Indirect techniques require impressioning your mouth and having your restoration made outside of the mouth. Often two or more appointments are required. An indirect technique is usually performed by a dental technician, trained and skilled in anatomy, function and esthetics. Though these procedures are more costly, the materials and techniques used will result in long term success.

EDENTULOUS (Fully and Partially)

Simply stated, fully edentulous refers to an individual that has no teeth at all in either the upper or lower jaw. Partially edentulous refers to missing one or more teeth.


In as much as good oral hygiene habits are important, in implant dentistry they are even more important. The design of the teeth that are fixed to the implant is critical to allow the patient easy access to cleaning.


This is a branch of implant dentistry that is concerned directly with the restorative phase following implant placement and the overall treatment plan before and after the placement of dental implants. This is not considered a specialty by The American Dental Association.


A skilled dental technician that has training and experience in the fabrication of pre-surgical aids and prosthetic construction. The implant dental technician is very much a part of the implant team.


An inlay or onlay is usually recommended as a conservative alternative to a full crown. Oftentimes when decay is removed, these procedures are recommended. In cosmetic dentistry, the evolution of materials and techniques allow for tooth-colored materials. In as much as there is a controversy over the use of amalgam in fillings (direct procedure), the use of tooth-colored materials is best used as a cosmetic procedure that also produces long-term success.
There are various materials that can be used to make an indirect inlay or onlay . . . .

(IPS Empress ®)

This is a ceramic material. Empress' flexural strength lies between tooth enamel and amalgam. This characteristic makes Empress an excellent choice for simulating natural teeth. The esthetic characteristics of this material are also superior to most metal-free systems.

Good for:  Not good for: 

Refers to a restoration that is made without the use of metal/alloy.


A term that refers to the process that takes place when your teeth come together and touch. The occlusal surface is the biting area. Occlusal force means the amount of pressure applied during clenching, chewing or side-to-side movement. Occlusal design is the process of making the teeth to meet the patients functional requirements.


A condition that exists when a titanium implant is inserted, screwed or pressed into living bone. The result is a biological bond of living bone to the titanium implant. In essence, the two become one.


Specializes exclusively in the treatment of the gums. Also permitted to perform surgical procedures, such as implant placement.


A tooth-colored, "sandlike" material consisting mainly of kaolin, feldspar and flux. It fuses at a high temperature to form a hard substance much like enamel in appearance.


Refers to the attaching of a partial denture to a fixed crown or bridge. The main reasons for a precision attachment are:

  • Cosmetics (Claspless partial that attaches to a crown or bridge)
  • Allows for a way to put the bridge in that may have preps that would otherwise not allow a path.
  • Directing occlusal forces where they need to be.

When a general dentist grinds down a natural tooth to allow for a crown to be placed over it, the tooth stump is called a preparation or a prep.


Prosthesis is a general term that applies to any artificial replacement for a missing part of the body. Prosthetic Dentistry (Prosthodontics) is the art and science of fabricating artificial replacements for missing or damaged teeth.


Implant protocol is the regimen and discipline that is strictly followed by the general dentist, the implant surgeon, the implant dental technician and any other team member. One of the most critical aspects of implant dentistry is proper pre-treatment planning within a team approach.


There are several ceramic materials in use today. For the sake of time, ease of understanding and continuity, we will only describe one reinforced porcelain available:


    This is a high-strength reinforced porcelain. It is considered to be 2-1/2 times stronger than traditional porcelains.

    • Good for:

    • Front and back crowns, inlays/onlays and veneers. Sometimes suitable for small bridges when there is enough room.
    • Not good for:

    • People that clench or grind their teeth or have an abnormal biting habits.

In dentistry, the term restoration refers to reproducing a tooth using metal and/or tooth-colored materials. This fabrication process is done by a dental technician.


In Implantology, the dentist is referred to as the restoring doctor. His/her responsibilities are to diagnose, evaluate and to treatment plan the implant patient. The steps to follow in having implants should be personally suited to you by your restoring doctor.


Root form implants date back thousands of years to the Egyptians and the Incas. However, in 1981, a 15-year clinical study was completed on the use of cylinder shaped (root form) titanium implants. Placed in the lower jaw, approximately 90% of the reported implants were still in function at that time. Today, there are numerous types of root form designs. Implant sales grossed over 200 million dollars in 1995 in the United States alone.


The term success can refer to many different areas. The following information should help you in understanding implant success.
In the beginning, the restoring dentist and patient discuss and agree upon the goals and objectives to be achieved. There are five categories to be considered. To achieve 100% success in each category is not often required.

  1. Esthetics:

  2. How important appearance is depends upon what tooth or teeth are being replaced (front or back) and whether or not the patient's concern is for cosmetics or other areas. This may not be a high priority for some patients.
  3. Function:

  4. Restoring a patient back to function (being able to eat properly) is extremely critical in the fully edentulous patient as well as the partially edentulous patient.
  5. Implant Hygiene:

  6. The ability for a patient to clean around the implant is always critical. Bacteria or plaque can contribute to a possible infection and possible implant failure.
  7. Longevity:

  8. A 14-year old patient will require much consideration in this category as opposed to an 84-year old patient. However, there are many other factors to consider in how long the teeth and implants may last. Design will be a very important consideration.
  9. Phonetics:

  10. This refers to speech. In most instances, the design of the teeth being fabricated require a lot of consideration for maintaining a patients speech/phonetics.

Implantology is not considered a specialty branch of dentistry. Surgical procedures can be performed by an oral surgeon, a periodontist or a general dentist. The surgeon's responsibility is to select the appropriate shape and size of implant to be placed precisely where the dentist has requested. The qualified surgeon also performs other implant related surgeries, such as bone grafting, sinus lifts, etc.


In conventional dentistry, a dentist works alone. His/her practice revolves primarily around their skills and experience. Implant dentistry is a multi-skilled field. The general dentist is referred to as the restoring doctor and works closely with the oral surgeon or periodontist who will be performing the surgical aspects. The implant dental technician will also be involved with making of the teeth. Also involved on the implant team are the x-ray technicians, dental assistants, surgical assistants, implant manufacturers and, of course, the patient's positive attitude.


In dentistry, a veneer refers to a thin covering of porcelain or composite over the enamel of a tooth. For our purposes, all cosmetic techniques described will be utilizing an indirect technique. This refers to fabrication procedures performed outside of the mouth that utilize the talents of a dental technician.

Recommendations for veneer treatment are as follows:

  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Some malpositioned teeth
  • Correction of deformities
  • Cosmetic improvements (i.e.: shade, shape, lip support, cheek support, etc.)
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Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD
2009 Birdcreek Terrace Temple, TX 76502 254.773.9007 | Fax 254.773.8051
©2004 Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD | Online since 1996 | Updated Continuously