A new method of evaluating posterior occlusion and its relation to posttreatment occlusal changes.
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The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between posterior occlusion and posttreatment changes in other occlusal variables. Pretreatment (T1), posttreatment (T2), and postretention (T3) records were obtained for 49 Class I (n = 23) and Class II (n = 26) extraction cases. Overbite, overjet, mandibular incisor irregularity, right and left molar deviations, midline deviation, and mandibular arch length were measured, and occlusal registrations were made of each set of dental casts. The proximity of posterior occlusal surfaces was measured as the contact or near-contact areas at or below 300 microm thickness, based on the optical densities of scanned images of the posterior occlusal registrations. The treatment changes for overbite, overjet, right and left molar deviation, and arch length were significantly greater in the Class II group, and the reductions in incisor irregularity were greater in the Class I group. No other class differences were found. Overbite, overjet, and incisor irregularity increased after treatment, and arch length continued to decrease, with no significant class differences. Contact and near-contact areas at or below 300 microm constituted 7% of the functional occlusal table for both classes at the end of treatment, having decreased significantly in both groups (21% in Class I and 29% in Class II) during treatment. Because contact and near-contact areas increased in some patients and decreased in others, there were no significant posttreatment changes. Negative correlations were found between contact and near-contact areas at T2 and changes in overjet from T2 to T3, and between contact and near-contact areas at T3 and changes in overbite from T2 to T3. No relationships were found between posterior contact and near-contact area and incisor irregularity. We concluded that (1) the area of actual and near contacts at or below 300 microm decreased significantly with treatment, indicating that, despite excellent treatment results by conventional standards, the proximity of posterior occlusal surfaces lessened; (2) the proximity of the posterior occlusal surfaces should not be expected to increase posttreatment; (3) posttreatment contact and near-contact areas may be factors in overbite and overjet stability; and (4) posttreatment contact and near-contact areas are not related to incisor irregularity.