In this post you can find animations that reproduce the dynamics of a healthy dental occlusion and its relation to the translation and rotation of the TMJs and the movement of the upper cervical spine. We have also included animations that show the consequences of a collapsed dental occlusion: the animations show postural collapse of the skeletal structure on different planes and its relation with the height and shape of the dental arches.
Dynamic Dental occlusion and alignment of the TMJ, Mandible and Upper Cervical Spine
In the animation above you can see 4 positions of dental occlusion as they relate to the position of the mandible and the cervical spine.
We have named them E, A, O and U because positioning the mouth as if speaking those letters will put the mandible close to those positions.
The following video shows how a healthy mouth moves easily back and forth from and to those 4 positions.
Please watch it noting that mastication is not a “chop-chop” movement guided by a TMJ acting as a hinge. Mastication in a helthy mouth is a cyclical movement, up and down, forward and backwards along the same lines and in E-A-O-A-E-A-O….
And you can also note from the animation above how those 4 positions of the mandible correspond to different tilts of the head. That happens because the fulcrum of the rotation movement of the mandible is not in the TMJ but in the second cervical vertebrae, called Axis or C2.
THE TMJ IS NOT A HINGE
IN A HEALTHY DENTAL OCCLUSION THERE ARE:
- Constant “kissing” contacts in all positions between teeth of the oposing dental arches (at least 3 in every single moment).
- Gliding ramps on molars that guide these movements seemlessly.
- The movement from E to a to O and to U has to be along the same line.
- The mandible can not move laterally or twist (what is known as excentric movement of the mandible) until it goes past the o position,
WHY ARE CONSTANT CONTACTS NECESSARY?
The brain needs those constant “kissing contacts” between opposing teeth of and along the same plane and line in order to know if the Mandible, TMJ and upper cervical (Atlas or C1 and Axis or C2) are aligned.
In order to move the mandible in a balanced and aligned way, there have to be at lest 3 contacts between teeth of the oposing dental arches. 2 are at the back of the mouth on molar or premolar teeth and are called “working contacts“. The third contact is in front teeth and is called “balancing contact.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE ALIGNMENT OF DENTAL OCCLUSION IS LOST?
The first thing that happens is that the mandible will not move in a line forward-backwords and up-down and will put twsting strain on the TMJs.
If the mandible is allowed to move sideways before lower front teeth have passed the O position, chances are that the TMJ will displace and derange the condylar disks.
Medial displacement of the TMJ disks (towards the inside of the skull) is the one that can trigger nasty neurological conditions.
The twisting derangement of the TMJs will, in turn, twist the upper cervical spine and precipitate the postural collapse that you can appreciate in the next animations.
THE HEAD AND THE CERVICAL SPINE
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