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Dental Dictionary

The ABCs of restoring teeth

When it comes to fixing teeth, there’s a bewildering collection of choices and techniques. Here’s an index of terms to help you understand what your dentist is talking about.

Restoration: Dental lingo for any material or device that replaces lost tooth structure and restores function. This includes fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures, etc.

Filling: A filling is a restoration that repairs part of a tooth. This includes amalgams, composites, inlays, onlays, and temporary fillings.


Crown: A restoration that restores the tooth crown. That’s the part of the tooth above the gum line.

Bridge: A restoration that replaces one or more teeth. Bridges cannot be removed.

Appliance: Dental office talk for restorations you can remove.

Denture: An appliance that replaces teeth. They are called “full dentures” when they replace all the upper or lower, and “partial” when they replace one or more teeth.

Cavity: You might think it means decay. In fact, it refers to what is left after the decay is removed. Basically – it’s the hole. Removing decay and enlarging the cavity are part of preparing a tooth for a filling.

Taking an impression: Dentists take an impression to create a plaster or dental stone model of a tooth or part of your jaw. The model can be used to make bridges, dentures, inlays, onlays and study models used for treatment diagnosis.

Dentists use all kinds of terms when they are trying to explain a procedure. If you hear one you don’t understand, ask for an explanation.