Anatomy of the temporomandibular joint and muscles of mastication
Getting into medical school must have been a jaw-dropping moment, but have you ever wondered how it is that your jaw didn’t fall off? You can thank the temporomandibular joint for that!
Now, the temporomandibular joint is a modified synovial hinge joint. So first, just like a hinge joint, it allows for flexion and extension, which translate to elevation…….and depression of the jaw, respectively. Additionally, the TMJ also allows for gliding and rotation.
The articular components of this joint include the mandibular fossa and the articular tubercle of the temporal bone as the superior surface, and the head of the mandible as the inferior surface.
Unlike your average hinge joint, the articular surfaces don’t make direct contact here. They are separated by an articular disc, which is attached to the inner surface of the joint's fibrous capsule.
The articular disc divides the joint into two parts: the superior articular cavity, which allows the mandible to glide causing protrusion…….and retrusion, and the inferior articular cavity, which allows the hinge movements, elevation or closing of the jaw and depression or opening of the jaw, as well as rotational movements.
With all of these movements at the temporomandibular joint, there needs to be strong surrounding support so it doesn’t become dislocated.
This is where ligaments come in handy. The temporomandibular joint is enveloped by the joint capsule and strengthened by one intrinsic and two extrinsic ligaments.
The intrinsic ligament, called the lateral ligament, is a thickening of the joint capsule and extends from the articular tubercle to the neck of the mandible.
It strengthens the joint laterally and helps prevent posterior dislocation. The two extrinsic ligaments are the sphenomandibular ligament and the stylomandibular ligament.