The presence of non-working occlusal contacts is often considered harmful for the temporomandibular joint. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of non-working occlusal contacts on the condylar position during submaximal and maximal clenching. The study comprised 22 healthy subjects having a canine-guided occlusion. None of them had a third molar and none of them had a missing tooth or showed tooth mobility. All subjects clenched on (i) the canine, (ii) the canine while a stiff bite registration material was positioned between the second premolar and the first molar on the non-working side. The clenching level was controlled by surface electromyography of the masseter muscle. During clenching, the vertical and horizontal condylar position was predicted using six degrees of freedom ultrasonic motion analyser. Clenching on the canine caused a cranial movement of the non-working side condyle. This movement was reduced by 0·6-0·9 mm when the subjects clenched while the artificial non-working side contacts were in place. These results indicate that the contacts on the non-working side may be able to prevent upward joint movement.