Calcification – the process of hardening through the deposition of lime salts.

Calcium – a metallic chemical element which appears in great abundance in numerous compounds in the Earth’s crust.

Calculus – hard, calcium-like deposits which form on teeth and dentures.

Canal – the narrow chamber inside the root of the tooth containing nerve tissue and blood vessels.

Canines – also known as cuspids; the third tooth from the center of the mouth towards the back.

Caninus – the correct Latin terminology for cuspids.  It is also called the eye tooth.

Caries – the medical term for decay.  Caries is caused by decalcification of the enamel and disintegration of the dentin by acid-producing bacteria.

Cariogenic – decay-causing.

Cast – a reproduction of teeth or the edentulous mouth (no teeth at all) in stone or plaster.

Cement – dental material used to seal inlays, onlays, and crowns to the teeth.  Cement is also used for pupal protection.

Cementum – the material that makes up the dull yellow outer surface of the tooth roots.

Centric Occlusion – the relationship of the occlusal surfaces of the teeth of one arch to those teeth in the opposing arch at a physical rest position.

Centric Relation – the relationship of the maxillary arch to the mandibular arch when the bottom teeth are in their most retracted position.

Cervical – pertaining to the neck of the tooth.

Cervix – the neck of the tooth; the area where the crown joins the root or the enamel joins the cementum.

Cingulum – a raised area on the lingual surface of anterior teeth.

Clasp – the metal part of a partial denture which helps to retain, support, and stabilize the appliance.

Cleaning – a dental cleaning is a routine preventive procedure performed by a dental hygienist in your dentist’s office.  If you have not had your teeth cleaning in a long time, you can expect a longer treatment while plaque is removed from your teeth.  The American Dental Association recommends that you visit the dentist every 6 months to receive a dental cleaning and exam.

Cleft Lip – a congenital malformation in which the upper lip is partially split.  This condition, also known as cheiloschisis, can cause the lip to be split all the way up to the nostrils on either or both sides of the lip, or it can cause more mild deformities, which may be as subtle as small dents in the lip.  It sometimes appears in combination with a cleft palate, a condition in which the roof of the mouth is not completely joined.

Cleft Palate – an opening in the hard or soft palate within the mouth.  This opening may also appear on the lips.  Cleft palates usually occur before birth, when the child is still forming, and are a result of the incorrect formation of the mouth.

Clinical Crown – the portion of the tooth visible in the mouth extending from the occlusal or incisal edge to the crest of the free gingiva.

Complete Series – full mouth X-rays

Composite Filling – a tooth-colored restorative material.  The word ‘composite’ refers to the mixture of filler particles in the liquid resin.

Concave – curving inward, away from the viewer.

Contact Area – the portion of the proximal surface of the tooth that touches the adjacent tooth.

Convex – a term referring to an outward curve.  In dentistry, this means that the tooth is curved towards the outside.

Cosmetic Dentistry – a field of dentistry covering a diverse range of dental procedures.  The aim of cosmetic dentistry is to restore teeth to their natural beauty.  This type of dentistry can also be used to correct dental problems such as an overbite or missing teeth.  If you have bad teeth, cosmetic dental treatment can enhance the way your smile looks and improve your self-confidence.

Crest – a prominence or ridge within the mouth.

Cross Contamination – passing disease indirectly from one patient to another through the use of improper sterilization procedures.

Crown/Cap – dental crowns, or caps, are a dental restoration which completely cover the visible portion of the tooth, and are fixed in place using cement to become the new outer surface of the tooth itself.


Curettage – The surgical scraping of bacteria from the soft tissue. This is a periodontal procedure and is usually performed one quadrant at the time. Learn More

Cuspid – the third tooth from the center of the mouth towards the back, also known as the canine teeth.

Cusp – are elevated points on the chewing surface of the back teeth. Learn More

Custom Tray – an individual tray custom made to fit a patient’s mouth.  This tray may be used to take an impression, perform a whitening treatment, or correct the alignment of teeth