Associations between incisor and mandibular condylar movements during maximum mouth opening in humans

K. H. Travers, P. H. Buschang, H. Hayasaki, G. S. Throckmorton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


This study evaluated the common clinical assumption that condylar translation and mouth opening at the incisor are closely related. The sample studied comprised 27 adult females (23-35 years), selected for normal temporomandibular function, occlusion, and skeletal patterns. Condylar and mandibular central incisor movements (straight-line distances and curvilinear pathways) were recorded in three dimensions (3D) for 20 s with an optoelectric (Optotrak®) jaw-tracking system while each participant performed multiple maximum opening cycles. Masticatory analysis and multilevel statistical programs computed the 3D movements of the incisors and condylar hinge axis during opening and closing. The incisor point moved an average straight-line distance of 46.6 mm during opening and 45.9 mm during closing; the lengths of the opening and closing curvilinear pathways were 48.6 and 47.7 mm, respectively. The condyles moved average straight-line distances of 11.9 and 12.2 mm during opening and closing, respectively. The condyles' curvilinear pathways during opening and closing were 14 and 14.6 mm, respectively. Ranges of condylar movement varied widely between individuals. The straight-line distances and curvilinear pathways were highly correlated for the incisors (R = 0.98) and the condyles (R = 0.98). Neither the straight-line distances nor curvilinear pathways of the incisors were correlated with those of the condyles. Incisor straight-line distances and curvilinear pathways were moderately correlated with mandibular rotation (R(between) (subjects) = 0.82 and R(between repeats) = 0.88). During repeated openings, both condylar and incisor excursions increased, but during repeated closings only incisor excurSionS increased. It is concluded that (1) maximum incisor opening does not provide reliable information about condylar translation and its use as a diagnostic indicator of condylar movement should be limited, (2) healthy individuals may perform normal opening with highly variable amounts of condylar translation, (3) the straight-line distances of the incisor and condyles provide adequate information about the length of the curvilinear pathway, and (4) variation in maximum incisor opening is largely explained by variation in the amount of mandibular rotation. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Oral Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2000


  • Adult females
  • Condyles
  • Incisors
  • Kinematics
  • Maximum opening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Dentistry(all)
  • Cell Biology


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