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J Oral Rehabil. 2006 Dec;33(12):874-80.

Tooth displacement due to occlusal contacts: a three-dimensional finite element study.

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Department of Prosthodontics, Pontifical Catholic University, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.


The use of the Finite Element Method (FE) is an appropriate way to study occlusal forces and tooth movement. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of different occlusal contact patterns on tooth displacement in an adult dentition using a three-dimensional FE model of a human maxilla and mandible. Initially, images of a computerized tomography scan were redrawn in a computer program (CATIA) followed by the FE mesh construction. The MSC/Patran software was used to develop the FE mesh comprising 520,445 elements and 106,633 nodes. The MSC/Nastran program was utilized as pre and post-processor for all mathematical calculations necessary to evaluate dental and mandibular biomechanics. Four occlusal patterns were tested: FEM 1 - standard occlusal contacts; FEM 2 - removal of mesial marginal and mesial tripoidism contacts; FEM 3 - removal of distal marginal and distal tripoidism contacts; FEM 4 - similar to FEM 3 with added contacts between upper and lower incisors. Small changes in the standard distribution of occlusal contacts resulted in an imbalance of occlusal forces and changes in dental positioning. All simulations tested showed mesial displacement of posterior teeth. The most significant changes were registered in the model presenting unstable occlusal contacts when the anterior teeth were in occlusion (FEM 4). These findings may explain mandibular incisors crowding and maxillary incisors flaring as a result of small variations in dental contacts.

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