My thoughts on using an articulator

In dental school, everyone gets to learn about the different types of articulators and the use of facebow. But then somehow they get stored away and recently while teaching at the dental school, there was talk about removing all the related material from the dental curriculum.

Personally, I too went through a phase of trying to minimize the use of articulators in my practice. While there are merits in using them, especially in more comprehensive cases, not all lab technicians know how to use them correctly. What I do in most cases is to ensure that the patient has a good set of provisional restorations that have been tested in the mouth with satisfactory esthetics. Then I take the impression of the provisional restorations and the resulting model will have valuable information regarding incisal length, contour, occlusal plane orientation and vertical dimension of occlusion. Using this model will give the lab technician much more guidance on how to develop the final restorations.

In the cases when I do use an adjustable articulator, I don’t go all out and use a fully adjustable articulator in getting the condyles measured or getting the records to program the three dimensional range of condylar movements. I do believe that the use of facebow is critical to have a more accurate representation of your arc of closure then a simple hinge articulator. So in most cases, I would obtain my facebow record and mount it on a semi-adjustable articulator using average values of condylar inclination with a model of the provisional restoration. This arrangement will solve about 95% of the cases.

Of the more unusual cases, you really have to understand mandibular movements and learning about articulators have been critical in helping me understand how mandibular movements influence occlusal morphology.