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Physiol Behav. 2006 Aug 30;89(1):22-7. Epub 2006 Mar 29.

Oral physiology and mastication.

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  • 1Department of Oral-Maxillofacial Surgery, Prosthodontics and Special Dental Care, Oral Physiology Group, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Mastication is a sensory-motor activity aimed at the preparation of food for swallowing. It is a complex process involving activities of the facial, the elevator and suprahyoidal muscles, and the tongue. These activities result in patterns of rhythmic mandibular movements, food manipulation and the crushing of food between the teeth. Saliva facilitates mastication, moistens the food particles, makes a bolus, and assists swallowing. The movement of the jaw, and thus the neuromuscular control of chewing, plays an important role in the comminution of the food. Characteristics of the food, e.g. water and fat percentage and hardness, are known to influence the masticatory process. Food hardness is sensed during mastication and affects masticatory force, jaw muscle activity, and mandibular jaw movements. When we chew for instance a crispy food, the jaw decelerates and accelerates as a result of resistance and breakage of food particles. The characteristic breakage behaviour of food is essential for the sensory sensation. This study presents a short review of the influence of oral physiology characteristics and food characteristics on the masticatory process.

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