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J Biomech. 2005 Dec;38(12):2431-9. Epub 2004 Dec 30.

Combined finite-element and rigid-body analysis of human jaw joint dynamics.

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


The jaw joint plays a crucial role in human mastication. It acts as a guidance for jaw movements and as a fulcrum for force generation. The joint is subjected to loading which causes tensions and deformations in its cartilaginous structures. These are assumed to be a major determinant for development, maintenance and also degeneration of the joint. To analyze the distribution of tensions and deformations in the cartilaginous structures of the jaw joint during jaw movement, a dynamical model of the human masticatory system has been constructed. Its movements are controlled by muscle activation. The articular cartilage layers and articular disc were included as finite-element (FE) models. As this combination of rigid-body and FE modeling had not been applied to musculoskeletal systems yet, its benefits and limitations were assessed by simulating both unloaded and loaded jaw movements. It was demonstrated that joint loads increase with muscle activation, irrespective of the external loads. With increasing joint load, the size of the stressed area of the articular surfaces was enlarged, whereas the peak stresses were much less affected. The results suggest that the articular disc enables distribution of local contact stresses over a much wider area of the very incongruent articular surfaces by transforming compressive principal stress into shear stress.

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