Zirconias, the most durable of the dental ceramics, are increasingly being fabricated in monolithic form for a range of clinical applications, circumventing issues associated with weak porcelain veneers. Yttria-based tetragonal zirconia polycrystal (Y-TZP) is the most widely used variant. However, Y-TZP lacks the esthetics of competitive glass–ceramics on the market and is therefore somewhat restricted in the anterior region. This article reviews the progressive development of currently available and next-generation zirconias, representing a concerted drive toward greater translucency while preserving adequate strength and toughness. Limitations of efforts directed toward this end, such as reducing the content of light-scattering alumina sintering aid or incorporating a component of optically isotropic cubic phase into the tetragonal structure, are examined. Latest fabrication routes using refined starting powders and dopants along with innovative sintering protocols and associated surface treatments are described. The need to understand the several, often complex, mechanisms of long-term failure in relation to routine laboratory test data is presented as a vital step in bridging the gap between material scientist, dental manufacturer and clinical provider.