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J Dent Res. 1997 Jan;76(1):561-7.

Effect of jaw opening on the direction and magnitude of human incisal bite forces.

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Department of Oral Health Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


The maximum bite force (MBF) appears to be different when measured at different jaw openings (e.g., Manns et al., 1979; Mackenna and Turker, 1983; Lindauer et al., 1993). However, the change could be related to a change in the bite direction. We have measured the MBF on incisors and its direction in three dimensions for different jaw openings in ten subjects. Surface electromyography (EMG) of anterior temporalis and masseter muscles on both sides was recorded simultaneously. The results showed that: (1) the average %MBF increased as the jaw was opened, reached a plateau between 14 and 28 mm of incisal separation, and then decreased at wider jaw openings; (2) the initial forward bite direction with respect to the mandibular occlusal plane shifted backwards during jaw opening; and (3) the activity of the masseter muscles declined and that of the temporalis muscles was largely unchanged, resulting in an increase of the ratio between the activity in temporalis and masseter muscles (T/M). There was a significant correlation between bite direction and jaw opening (r = 0.51, p < 0.001) and between T/M ratio and jaw opening (r = 0.56, p < 0.001). Based on comparative data, we have calculated sarcomere lengths while the jaw is opened and hypothesize that the average %MBF reaches its maximum when the sarcomeres in the masseter muscle achieve their optimum length. A plateau continues during further jaw opening, until those of temporalis reach their optimum length while those of masseter lengthen beyond their optimum length. The change in bite direction was attributed to either a change in the relation between upper and lower bite points as the jaw was opened or the gradual decline of masseter activity at larger openings.

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