The tides represent a highly predictable element of the Earth system, with the ebb and flow of the tide first linked to phases of the moon over a millennium ago. However, it is only in the past 50 years that the key role of the tides in driving ocean mixing has been recognised. Here we review progress made in the identification and parameterisation of the pathways of tidal energy, from generation to dissipation and mixing, in a range of ocean environments. The review highlights the key role of tidal dissipation in driving heat, freshwater and biogeochemical fluxes across a range of scales and environments, highlighting the need for representation of the small-scale mixing processes supported by the tide in both regional and global ocean and climate models. We also consider the variation in tidal dissipation through different stages of the Earth’s geological history and its impact on the evolution of the earth-moon system. We further present a number of examples of past climate states to demonstrate that present tides and tidal dissipation rates are a poor proxy for past and future levels of tidally driven oceanic mixing.