For nearly a century, the diversity of concepts about ‘normal’ and ‘ideal’ dental occlusal relationships has led to confusion in trying to describe the occlusion of any individual patient. In addition, a similar controversy arises when trying to formulate treatment plans for patients who need extensive dental restorations or orthodontic treatment. And finally, the application of occlusal concepts to patients with temporomandibular pain and dysfunction has created a third area of debate. Over the past few decades, however, an appreciable part of the tenacious dogmatic heritage of this topic has been challenged. As a result, the acceptance of morphological and functional variability of the stomatognathic system has gained increasing support, and this change has important consequences for modern dental practice. In this article, the past, present and future of the subject of occlusion will be considered.