Response of human jaw muscles to axial stimulation of the incisor

Russell S.A. Brinkworth, Kemal S. Türker, Andrew W. Savundra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The role of periodontal mechanoreceptors (PMRs) in the reflex control of the jaw muscles has thus far been mainly derived from animal studies. To date, the work that has been done on humans has been limited and confined to orthogonal stimulation of the labial surface of the tooth. The purpose of this study was to investigate the response of the masseter and digastric muscles in humans to controlled axial stimulation of the upper left central incisor, both before and during a local anaesthetic block of the PMRs. Ten neurologically normal young adult females were tested, each on two separate occasions to confirm the reproducibility of the results. It was found that the reflex response in the masseter was modulated by the rate of rise of the stimulus used and, to a lesser degree, the level of background muscle activity. There was little detectable change in the activity of the digastric muscle under the tested conditions and what was found could be attributed to cross-talk with the masseter. The reflex responses obtained were significantly different between subjects; however retesting the same subject on a different occasion yielded similar results. The results indicate that the most common response of the masseter muscle to brisk axial stimulation of the incisor is a reflex inhibition at 20 ms, followed by a late excitation at 44 ms. However, it is possible that this late excitation could be due to delayed action potentials and hence be artefactual. As the application of a local anaesthetic block removed or significantly reduced both of these responses, it was concluded that they originated from the PMRs. Unlike during orthogonal stimulation, slowly rising stimuli did not produce any excitatory reflex activity. This indicated a difference in jaw reflexes to forces applied in different directions, possibly due to the activation of different receptor types when stimulating the tooth in either the orthogonal or axial directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes


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