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The oral cavity and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are highly complex systems that are deeply intertwined. The TMJ allows a person to perform a wide variety of jaw movements, such as open, close, protrusion, retrusion, and laterality. Also, it can be locked in multiple positions to replicate and emulate oral maxillary movements.
When performing extensive treatment cases involving extensive restorations or treatments that could modify the patient's bite, the dentist must consider these aspects to ensure the treatment's success.
The dental articulator is capable of recreating these jaw movements to help the dentist analyze the patient's occlusion. Therefore, allowing him to design the restorations according to the patient's occlusion and TMJ.
A dental articulator is a specialized tool that acts as the patient's TMJ. Dental professionals use this tool to analyze the relationship between the upper and lower dental arch. Also, it can be used to observe any malocclusion or occlusion problem a patient might have.
There are different types of dental articulators. Moreover, they are divided into 3 groups:
● Non-adjustable articulators
● Semi-adjustable articulators
● Adjustable articulators
However, all types possess the same basic structure.
They consist of a base that has two vertical arms at the side. This structure mimics the jawbone. On the upper side, there is a horizontal arm that mimics the maxillary bone.
The hinge that connects both pieces is meant to function as the TMJ, allowing the dentist to recreate its movements.
To use the dental articulator, the dentist just needs to fix the patient's dental models to the device using plaster.
The main difference between each dental articulator type is how close they resemble the patient's real TMJ.
● Non-adjustable articulator:
They only possess a simple hinge which allows them to recreate the patient's mouth opening and closing motion. They are easy to use and offer a quick solution for cases that don't require a thorough occlusion analysis.
● Semi-adjustable articulator:
This type is widely used in cases that require deep analysis of the patient's occlusion, such as bruxism splints and dentures.
Semi-adjustable articulators allow the dentist to recreate all the TMJ movements.
● Adjustable articulator:
This type of articulator is the most complex one. It allows the dentist to adjust each condyle independently. Therefore, resulting in a completely exact representation of the patient's oral cavity and TMJ.
However, this system is highly complex and takes a lot of training and expertise to use appropriately. Furthermore, it takes a lot of time to adjust the condyles properly. For this reason, adjustable articulators are usually reserved only for highly complex cases that demand extreme precision.
Dental articulators are used while designing and creating any indirect and prosthetic restorations, such as:
● Meno a maiketsetso a ka tlosoang
● Bruxism splints