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At present, there are no generally accepted criteria that could easily be applied to the evaluation of occlusal acceptability in clinical examinations at population level. The present study analyses the opinions of Finnish orthodontists and general practitioners on the characteristics required for acceptable occlusion in the full permanent dentition.A questionnaire was sent to all 37 health centres where at least one orthodontist was employed, 31 regionally comparable health centres without an orthodontist, 12 private orthodontists, and 13 orthodontists working at university dental clinics. Seventy-four orthodontists returned the questionnaire giving a response rate of 80 per cent. They were asked to give their views on the importance of morphology, function, long-term stability, and dental appearance as elements of acceptable occlusion. They were also encouraged to indicate other significant characteristics and requested to assess the relative significance of these features.In general, the respondents expressed the need to assess morphological, functional and aesthetic aspects of occlusion as a whole. Good function, rather than morphology, was considered to be the most important feature of an acceptable occlusion, with a relative significance of 40 per cent (range 20–90 per cent). According to the respondents, the acceptability of occlusion is determined not only by morphological features, but also by the functional status and long-term stability, as well as by the patient's opinion of the dental appearance.