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Gerodontology. 1998;15(1):3-14.

Oro-facial muscles: internal structure, function and ageing.

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Department of Medicine (Division of Neurology), McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Structure and function are reviewed in the masticatory muscles and in the muscles of the lower face and tongue. The enormous strength of jaw closure is in large part due to the pinnated arrangement of the muscle fibres in the masseter. This muscle, like other masticatory muscles, is unusual in that the cell bodies of the muscle spindle afferents lie in the brain stem rather than in an external ganglion; spindles are absent in the lower facial muscles. Although few data are available, the numbers of motor units in the masticatory muscles, and probably in the lower facial muscles also, appear to be much greater than in limb muscles. The motor units in the facial and tongue muscles are largely composed of histochemical type II ('fast-twitch') fibres, but in the masticatory muscles there are substantial numbers of fibres intermediate between type I ('slow twitch') and type II, and fibre type grouping is present. In comparison with limb muscles, there is little information on ageing changes in oro-facial muscles. The masticatory muscles do, however, show some atrophy and loss of X-ray density, while motor unit twitches are prolonged. Strength is reduced in the tongue and masticatory muscles. It is known that limb muscle properties are largely governed by their innervation, both through the pattern and amount of impulse activity, and the delivery of trophic messengers; the situation for oro-facial muscles is unclear. The structural and functional differences between the two types of muscle indicate the need for conducting ageing studies on the oro-facial muscles, rather than relying on extrapolations from limb muscles.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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