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Rev Stomatol Chir Maxillofac. 1998 Apr;99(1):3-10.

[The evolution of the lower jaw and the jaw joint, from reptiles to man].

[Article in French]

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Service de Stomatologie, Hôtel-Dieu, Nantes.


The evolution of the mandible shows two characteristic features: transformation of the angular, articular and square bones in reptiles into the tympanic bone, malleus and incus of the middle ear respectively; and specific volume expansion of the tooth-bearing bone which in mammals comprises the entire mandible. Posture, locomotion and mastication are the basic evolutionary factors which simultaneously provoked 1) a displacement of the temporal regions, 2) a transformation of the face lowering and widening the lower jaw and 3) an elongation of the sutures uniting the different bones in the reptile jaw bone, progressively leading to their separation and transversal orientation. These transformations were accentuated in the biped. Thus in man the temporomandibular joint is in a very lateral and elevated position near the mastoids. The mandibular condyls are elongated transversally with a medial cantilever. The medial part of the meniscus is drawn medially by the lateral pterygoid while the lateral part is drawn laterally by the temporal and masseter fibers. The ramus is oriented vertically and lies close to the cervical spine. The dental arches are displaced posteriorly on the bone and have lost their anterior abutment. The strongest occlusal forces are displaced to the posterior part of the arches and are transmitted vertically to the intra-articular meniscus. All these phenomena are termed extreme adaptations and the temporomandibular joint would (apparently) suffer if the evolution continued. The architectural features of temporomandibular joint overload can be deducted by comparison with the "ideal" architectural conditions for the craniofacial equilibrium.

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