Article

Mandibular elevator muscles: physiology, action, and effect of dental occlusion

Department of Oral Function and Physiology, School of Dentistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
European Journal Of Oral Sciences (Impact Factor: 1.73). 09/1993; 101(5):314 - 331. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0722.1993.tb01127.x

ABSTRACT In spite of differences in embryologic origin, central nervous organization, and muscle fiber distribution, the physiology and action of mandibular elevator muscles are comparable to those of skeletal muscles of the limbs, back, and shoulder. They also share the same age-, sex-, and activity-related variations of muscular strength. With respect to pathogenesis, the type of muscular performance associated with the development of fatigue, discomfort, and pain in mandibular elevators seems to be influenced by the dental occlusion. Clinical research comparing the extent of occlusal contact in patients and controls as well as epidemiologic studies have shown reduced occlusal support to be a risk factor in the development of craniomandibular disorders. In healthy subjects with full natural dentition, occlusal support in the intercuspal position generally amounts to 12–14 pairs of contacting teeth, with predominance of contact on first and second molars. The extent of occlusal contact clearly affects electric muscle activity, bite force, jaw movements, and masticatory efficiency. Neurophysiologic evidence of receptor activity and reflex interaction with the basic motor programs of craniomandibular muscles tends to indicate that the peripheral occlusal control of the elevator muscles is provided by feedback from periodontal pressoreceptors. With stable intercuspal support, especially from posterior teeth, elevator muscles are activated strongly during biting and chewing with a high degree of force and masticatory efficiency, and with relatively short contractions, allowing for pauses. These variables of muscle contraction seem, in general, to strengthen the muscles and prevent discomfort. Therefore, occlusal stability keeps the muscles fit, and enables the masticatory system to meet its functional demands.

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