• Mandible;
  • Temporomandibular joint;
  • Biomechanics;
  • Mastication;
  • Primates;
  • Functional anatomy


There is disagreement as to whether the mandibular condyles are stress-bearing or stress-free during mastication. In support of alternative models, analogies have been drawn with Class III levers, links, and couple systems. Physiological data are reviewed which indicate that maximum masticatory forces are generated when maxillary and mandibular teeth are in contact, and that this phase lasts for over 100 msec during many chewing strokes. During this period, the mandible can be modeled as a beam with multiple supports. Equations of simple beam theory suggest that large condylar reaction forces are present during mastication. With unilateral molar biting in man, the total condylar reaction force may be over 75% of the bite force. Analysis of a frontal projection demonstrates that up to 80% of the total condylar reaction force is borne by the contralateral (balancing side) condyle during unilateral molar biting. A comparison of human, chimpanzee (P. troglodytes), spider monkey (A. belzebuth), and macaque (Macaca sp.) morphology indicates that the frugivorous chimpanzee and spider monkey have a relatively lower condylar reaction force than the omnivorous macaque or man during molar biting. The percentage reaction force during incisal biting is lower in man than in the other primates, and lower in the frugivorous primates than in the macaque.