Terms used to describe jaw relationships between the mandible and the maxillae


Jaw relation (or the maxillomandibular relationship) refers to the position of the mandible (lower jaw) relative to the two maxillae (upper jaw) and can be described as a tooth-to-tooth relationship between maxillary and mandibular teeth or as a bone-to-bone relationship between the maxillae and mandible. Several terms describing different tooth and jaw relations are discussed in this section.


Maximal intercuspal position (MIP) or maximal intercuspation is a tooth-to-tooth relationship that is not dependent on where the jaw muscles or joint anatomy would like to position the mandible. It is the tightest or best fit between maxillary and mandibular posterior teeth and can be demonstrated on handheld casts of the upper and lower arches without looking into the mouth (Figs. 9-21B and 9-22B).

Illustrations A and B show the Maximal intercuspal position (MIP) compared to centric jaw relation.

FIGURE 9-21. Maximal intercuspal position (MIP) compared to centric jaw relation. A. Mandible has closed in the centric jaw relation until the first tooth contact between any upper and lower teeth (indicating a prematurity or deflective contact). B. The mandible has continued to close from the first tooth contact into MIP, and as a result of the prematurities, the mandible has deviated (deflected) forward (as seen in the shift of the relationship of the vertical lines placed on the maxillary and mandibular first premolars) and laterally to the left (as seen in the shift of the alignment of the midlines of the maxillary and mandibular dentition).


Images A and B show the MIP compared to centric jaw relation.

FIGURE 9-22. MIP compared to centric jaw relation on a patient with severe deflective tooth contacts. A. Patient’s casts (left side and right side) mounted in centric jaw relation. An articulator mounting of these casts in centric jaw relation using a leaf gauge revealed the severe deflective left second molar contact that was impossible to correct by just reshaping the enamel (an equilibration). This person’s mandible deflected forward 2 mm and to the right 1 mm as the teeth closed into MIP. B. Same patient’s casts (left side and right side) mounted in MIP.



Centric relation (CR) or centric jaw relation is the relationship of the mandible to the maxillae where healthy muscles and joint anatomy can comfortably guide the mandible if there were no teeth. It is an important reproducible and repeatable relationship of the mandible to the maxillae because it is normally the relationship people return to each time after they chew and swallow, and it is the relationship that dentists use when they mount diagnostic casts of the mouth prior to major restorative procedures. This jaw relationship is not affected by the presence (or absence) of teeth, so it does not change due to tooth malocclusion. It includes the range of positions of the mandible during a hinge-like opening and closing without moving bodily forward and without teeth touching, or just until the first two teeth initially just touch but do not yet begin to close more tightly into MIP.1820,J

It is a relatively rare but ideal occurrence when CR coincides with the MIP. This occurs when the mandible closes in its CR position and there is simultaneous even contact of teeth in maximal intercuspation when the teeth first touch.8,1922 This type of ideal occlusal relationship results in a harmony between the guidance afforded by jaw muscles, the position of condyles against the discs and fossae, and the maximum fitting together of the teeth. This condition does not occur in most people unless they have just had a well-executed occlusal reshaping (equilibration) where small amounts of interfering occlusal enamel were removed by the dentist to equalize occlusal stress,22 have a well-made removable denture, or have had a complete dental arch rehabilitation replacing or reorienting all occlusal surfaces (described later in this chapter).

When centric jaw relation does not coincide with the MIP, a prematurity or deflective occlusal contact exists. Most people have deflective malocclusion to some degree. Premature or deflective occlusal contacts refer to the teeth that are the first to contact as the mandible closes into its most retruded position in CR. These deflective occlusal contacts result in a mandibular deviation away from its relaxed, CR closure in order for the teeth reach MIP. The direction of the deviation of the mandible is usually forward (about 1 to 2 mm) and upward, with or without simultaneous lateral movement.18,20,21,23,24 This is illustrated in Figure 9-21 where premature contacts deflected the mandible forward and to the left as the teeth move from CR into MIP (from A to B) and in Figure 9-22 where the mandible was deflected forward 2 mm (from A to B). In Figure 9-22, compare the short vertical pencil lines on two pairs of opposing maxillary and mandibular teeth that line up when the teeth are in their MIP but reveal how distally the mandible was positioned in its centric jaw relation. A prematurity is most obvious on the skull in Figure 9-23 where the supraerupted maxillary third molar occluded before any other teeth when the mandible closed in its CR. This deflective occlusal contact forced the mandible to move considerably forward and superiorly in order to reach MIP.

An image shows the centric prematurity in a set of teeth.

FIGURE 9-23. Centric prematurity: initial contact of a supraerupted maxillary third molar. When the mandible is positioned comfortably as it closes in centric relation, the first tooth to contact in this dentition is the third molar. The mandible must then shift forward and upward (arrows) in order for all teeth to come together in the MIP.


Edentulous people (with no teeth) who wear complete dentures or false teeth are provided with denture teeth where CR coincides with MIP because they can learn to pull the mandible back and close into a stable and repeatable position of CR during jaw closure. This enables the tight occlusion of denture teeth to coincide with the repeatable centric jaw position, so the dentures will remain tightly secured against the mucosa and not rock loose when functioning.

An articulator is a mechanical device that holds casts of the two arches, permitting a close duplication of the patient’s opening and closing centric jaw relations. Notice the fit of the ball of the lower (mandibular) part fitting into a concavity on the upper (maxillary) part (Fig. 9-24A and B). This design simulates the heads of the condyles fitting into their articular fossae. It is easier to study tooth relationships with the patient’s dental arches (dental stone casts) on the articulator in your hands, rather than with your hands in the patient’s mouth. What better way is there to determine whether or not the maxillary and mandibular lingual cusps fit together tightly or properly in the maximal intercuspal relationship?

Images A and B show the Casts mounted on an articulator and Skull superimposed over an articulator.

FIGURE 9-24. Casts mounted on an articulator. A. This articulator (Denar, Anaheim, CA) can be used to mount casts of the patient’s dentition in order to reproduce the position and movements of mandibular teeth relative to maxillary teeth. This mounting was used to design the tooth anatomy and occlusion for a fixed dental prosthesis (bridge) from teeth #18 to #20 (replacing tooth #19) and a removable partial dental prosthesis replacing teeth #12 through #15. (Mounting courtesy of Dr. Lisa Knobloch, Ohio State University.) B. Skull superimposed over an articulator to show how tooth models mounted on an articulator can reproduce the movements of the teeth relative to the TMJ. (Photo compiled by Dr. Julie Holloway, University of Iowa.)



With your jaw muscles relaxed, open your mouth so that your teeth are slightly apart, and close very slowly in a hinge motion without sliding the jaw forward until the first teeth initially touch gently. The relationship of your jaws prior to your first gentle tooth contacts is your centric jaw relation. The relation of this pure hinge opening is a most important one to record when making extensive dental restorations for a patient. If your mandible is deflected (hits and slides) forward as you continue to close your teeth together into their MIP where they fit together most tightly, you are experiencing deflective or premature occlusal contacts, and you are among the majority of people whose CR does not coincide with the MIP. The mandible will almost always slide forward from CR into MIP, either straight forward or to one side. More than likely, your own deflective tooth contacts will not be as severe as that shown in Figure 9-22. Can you determine in which direction your premature tooth contacts deflect your mandible? Compare the location of your first (premature) tooth contact in CR with those in Table 9-1. Less than 1% of this group had MIP coincide with CR, yet most were asymptomatic.

TABLE 9-1 Deflective Centric Relation Tooth Contact Data from 811 Dental Hygienists

Location of First Centric Relation Tooth Contact

Number of Hygienists


Premolars one side



Premolars both sides



Molars one side



Molars both sides



Molar one side; premolar one side






MIP = centric jaw relation (no prematurity)






Premolars only



Molars only



Unilateral prematurity



Bilateral prematurity: same tooth



Bilateral prematurity; premolar–molar



aThree of the six recently had an equilibration by their dentists.

Research conducted by Dr. Woelfel at the Ohio State University, 1974–1986.

Only gold members can continue reading. Log In or Register to continue

Sep 12, 2021 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on Terms used to describe jaw relationships between the mandible and the maxillae
Premium Wordpress Themes by UFO Themes