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Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 2002;13(4):366-76.

Dynamics of the human masticatory system.

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Department of Functional Anatomy, Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In this review, the movement characteristics of the human masticatory system are discussed from a biomechanical perspective. The discussion is based upon the three fundamental laws of mechanics applied to the various anatomical structures that are part of the masticatory system. An analysis of the forces and torques applied to the mandible by muscles, joints, articular capsules, and teeth is used to assess the determinants of jaw movement. The principle of relating the interplay of forces to the center of gravity of the lower jaw, in contrast to a hinge axis near its joints, is introduced. It is evident that the muscles are the dominant determinants of jaw movement. The contributions of the individual muscles to jaw movements can be derived from the orientation of their lines of action with respect to the center of gravity of the lower jaw. They cause the jaw to accelerate with six degrees of freedom. The ratio between linear and angular accelerations is subtly dependent on the mass and moments of inertia of the jaw, and the structures that are more or less rigidly attached to it. The effects of articular forces must be taken into account, especially if the joints are loaded asymmetrically. The muscles not only move the jaw but also maintain articular stability during midline movements. Passive structures, such as the ligaments, become dominant only when the jaw reaches its movement boundaries. These ligaments are assumed to prevent joint dislocation during non-midline movements.

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