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What is Functional Occlusion?

We get asked a lot, what is a functional occlusion? And I think a lot of people, as they look at The Dawson Academy, think that we have one formula for an occlusal scheme that we're going to apply 100% of the time on our patients.

And I certainly agree that when we are redesigning the occlusion if we diagnose an occlusion that's pathologic, that has signs of instability, such as wear, mobility, migration, and sore muscles, that Dr. Dawson's formula for occlusal therapy can be utilized.

HubSpot Video

No Signs of Instability

Functional occlusion, for me, means that when we look at a patient's occlusion that it is functioning appropriately for them. They are a patient that lack signs of instability.

So when you put on your CSI hat and you start doing your exam:

  • You don't see wear
  • You don't see migration
  • You don't see sore muscles
  • You don't see teeth that are loose
  • You don't see TMD patients
  • You DO see stability.
  • You DO see a patient that is functioning within the normal realm

Now, what's interesting about that, we sometimes see patients that don't look like the textbook. Sometimes, we see a patient that might have a little slide between CR and MI, or we might look in lateral movements and we see posterior teeth rubbing, but yet they're not breaking down. They have a functional occlusion.

Not Always Textbook Perfect

Occlusal Equilibration

And what we recommend in patients like that, if they have very minimal dentistry to do, maybe some scaling, and root planing, and a few fillings to do, maybe a single crown, we wouldn't recommend changing their occlusion to the textbook. We'd recommend maintaining that occlusion because they lack signs of instability, they lack occlusal disease.

So we're always going to recommend the occlusion that's going to be functional for the patient. Patients with no signs of instability, we're going to maintain the occlusion that exists there. But if they have signs of instability, their functional occlusion will be the one that we design following Dr. Dawson's principles of occlusion. I hope that clears that up.

To learn more about functional occlusion, register for the online course or reserve a seat at the upcoming live course Functional Occlusion - From TMJ to Smile Design.

Test your knowledge on occlusomuscle disorders 

Picture of Dr. John Cranham

John Cranham, DDS is a co-clinical director of The Dawson Academy, where he teaches many of the lectures and hands-on courses. Dr. Cranham runs an esthetic-oriented practice in Chesapeake, Virginia. Dr. Cranham is an internationally recognized speaker with 25 years of experience.