The Curious History of Occlusion in Dentistry

(Published by DentalTown USA, 2017)

The tendency in dentistry is to think of occlusion as a static relationship that describes how maxillary and mandibular teeth fit together when the elevators contract and maintain contraction—in other words, maximum intercuspation. The concept is simple, but it's fascinating how the concept of occlusion can evoke such significant disagreement and controversy. Occlusal concepts are at the heart of every dental visit every day in every dentist's office, and yet there's no greater cause of disagreement amongst dentists.

Competing concepts of "occlusion" have been at the center of the conflicting TMD camps over the years. The existing controversies are one of the contributing factors that has led to limited teaching of occlusal concepts at the undergraduate level in dental schools worldwide. At the heart of the problem: Many "facts" about occlusion have been introduced into dentistry empirically and passed down as truths.

By examining the history of "evidence" of occlusion, we can reveal how several assumptions about occlusion came into existence (and why they continue to be taught as "science"). Exposing these potential myths and beginning the discussion about their origin and validity is critical to help all dentists more thoroughly and accurately understand the role of occlusion in their patient's health and, consequently, improve their daily dentistry.