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J Biomech. 1999 Feb;32(2):145-52.

Three-dimensional dynamical capabilities of the human masticatory muscles.

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  • 1Department of Functional Anatomy, Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), The Netherlands.


Many habitual human jaw movements are non-symmetrical. Generally, it is observed that when the lower incisors move to one side the contralateral condyle moves forwards onto the articular eminence, whereas the ipsilateral condyle stays in the mandibular fossa, moving slightly to the ipsilateral side. These jaw movements are the result of contractions of active masticatory muscles and guided by the temporomandibular joints, their ligaments and passive elastic properties of the muscles. It is not known whether the movements are primarily dependent on passive guidance, active muscle control or both. Therefore, the objective of this study was to analyse the interplay between these factors during non-symmetrical jaw movements. A six-degrees-of-freedom dynamical biomechanical model of the human masticatory system was used. The movements were not restricted to a priori defined joint axes. Jaw movement simulations were performed by unilateral activity of the muscles. The ligaments or the passive elastic properties of the muscles could be removed during these simulations. Laterodeviations conform to naturally observed ones could be generated by unilateral muscle contractions. The movement of the lower incisors was hardly affected by the absence of passive elastic muscle properties or temporomandibular ligaments. The latter, however, influenced the movement of the condyles. The movements could be understood by analysing the combination of forces and torques with respect to the centre of gravity of the lower jaw. In addition, the loading of the condyles appeared to be an important determinant for the movement. This analysis emphasizes that the movements of the jaw are primarily dependent on the orientation of the contributing muscles with respect to this centre of gravity and not on the temporomandibular ligaments or passive elastic muscle properties.

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