A Guide to Healthy Teeth

A Dictionary of Dental Terms

The lowdown on some common dental-related terms from Susan E. Brackett, a spokesperson for the American College of Prosthodontists.

By Tula Karras
Toothbrush and toothpaste in a cup on a bathroom sinkLisa Romerein / Getty Images
  • Bonding: A process in which tooth-colored material (usually plastic) is applied to teeth to fill in small cavities or to achieve subtle aesthetic changes.

  • Bridge: A device that connects the space created by a missing tooth or teeth to the natural teeth on either side. To replace a missing tooth, dentists place crowns on the teeth beside it so the new (fake) tooth can be properly joined to the other teeth. The entire structure is called a bridge.

  • Cap or Crown: A tooth-shaped cap slipped over a tooth that has had a number of fillings or is weakened and needs more support.

  • Implant: Another device used to replace a missing tooth or teeth. First, a small titanium rod is anchored to the jawbone. The bone bonds to the rod over the course of several weeks or months. Once the implant has healed, a permanent crown is installed. And, no, you won’t set off metal detectors.

  • Prosthodontist: A dentist who specializes in replacing or restoring teeth.

  • Veneers: Thin, tooth-colored shells (commonly made of porcelain) that are placed over the front part of the teeth, usually for cosmetic reasons. Dentists shave off a part of each natural tooth to apply veneers, so getting them is a permanent decision. Veneers will need to be replaced at least once over the course of a lifetime.
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