A force distribution cycle is a digital recording taken during the three phases of an occlusal cycle, i.e. during “occlusion”, “occluded”, and “disocclusion”. It is displayed on a computer screen the moment sensels are activated as patients bite down on a sensor, squeeze their teeth and then open. Each additional tap creates a new force cycle. Force distribution cycles document in real time important phases which cannot be recorded by articulating paper at all.
Force cycles measure contact distribution as a mandible moves toward MIP, stops, reverses direction, and pushes away from the maximum force position (MFP). The mandible moves into, unto, and out of the upper occlusal plane. Force cycles record intensity, direction, sequence, and timing of contacts as a mandible navigates in and out of the traditional static MIP position colored by articulating paper.
In our example, the force summation icon (red and white diamond) appears during the first contact between #4/#29, freezes for a fraction of a second, and moves left as the mandible occludes. The icon stops when the #15/#18 contact traps 52.6% of the total occlusal force generated. The icon then reverses direction as the mandible pushes off to complete the disocclusion phase.
Repeating force distribution cycles develop into characteristic patterns that provide insight into a mandible’s relationship to a maxilla when the two are in contact during function or engagement. Similar to a signature, patterns of engagement are unique to every individual and are set by age 15. These patterns are present before repetitious microtrauma produce pathology. Motion at odds with design is at best adaptive and at worst destructive to individual parts or to an entire stomatognathic system.