Neuromuscular function in healthy occlusion

This study aimed to measure neuromuscular function for the masticatory muscles under a range of occlusal conditions in healthy, dentate adults. Forty one subjects conducted maximum voluntary clenches under nine different occlusal loading conditions encompassing bilateral posterior teeth contacts with the mandible in different positions, anterior teeth contacts and unilateral posterior teeth contacts. Surface electromyography was recorded bilaterally from the anterior temporalis, superficial masseter, sternocleidomastoid, anterior digastric, and trapezius muscles. Clench condition had a significant effect on muscle function (p=0.0000) with the maximum function obtained for occlusions with bilateral posterior contacts and the mandible in a stable centric position. The remaining contact points and moving the mandible to a protruded position, whilst keeping posterior contacts, resulted in significantly lower muscle activities. Clench condition also had a significant effect on the percent overlap, anterior-posterior and torque coefficients (p=0.0000-0.0024), which describe the degree of symmetry in these muscle activities. Bilateral posterior contact conditions had significantly greater symmetry in muscle activities than anterior contact conditions. Activity in the sternocleidomastoid, anterior digastric, and trapezius was consistently low for all clench conditions, i.e. < 20% of the maximum voluntary contraction level. In conclusion, during maximum voluntary clenches in a healthy population maximum masticatory muscle activity requires bilateral posterior contacts and the mandible to be in a stable centric position, while with anterior teeth contacts both muscle activity and the degree of symmetry in muscle activity are significantly reduced.