The relationship between translation of the mandibular condyle during symmetrical mandibular rotation, i.e., symmetrical jaw depression and elevation, and the function of the superficial masseter muscle was examined in light of relative torque and the length-tension relationship for muscle. Lateral cephalograms of live adult rhesus monkeys(Macaca mulatta) were analyzed using two models: (1) Model A, normal symmetrical jaw rotation accompanied by condylar translation; and (2) Model B, mandibular rotation about an axis fixed at the position of the condyles during centric occlusion.
The decrease in relative torque and the excursion of the superficial masseter at mouth-open positions are significantly greater in Model B than in Model A. Symmetrical rotation of the jaw about a fixed axis would result in a 35% greater loss of maximum producible tension at maximum gape than rotation associated with condylar translation. These results suggest that condylar translation during mandibular depression and elevation functions to minimize reduction in relative torque and excursion of superficial masseter muscle, thereby maintaining optimal potential for exerting maximum tension during jaw closure.