Dynamic stereometry of the temporomandibular joint.Orthod Craniofac Res. 2003; 6 Suppl 1:37-47.OC
Studies on jaw kinematics have provided a good understanding of the motion of the mandible in space, but are of little biomechanical relevance because they could not relate the movements to anatomic structures. This is possible by the combination of three-dimensional reconstructions of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) anatomy with jaw motion recordings. This technique allows us to analyze the variation of the relationship between the articular surfaces, providing indirect insight into disk deformation during function and parafunction as well as TMJ loading. As far as the variation of the condyle-fossa distance is concerned, data indicated that during chewing the distance was smaller 1) on closing than on opening; 2) on the balancing than on the working side; and 3) during chewing of hard than soft food. Moreover, during a forceful static biting, the condyle-fossa distance decreased more on the contralateral, i.e. on the balancing side than on the working side. The decrease was related to the degree of clenching force. These results support the content that both condyles are loaded during chewing and the balancing side joint more than the working one. Biomechanically, the development of osteoarthrosis is more likely related to the magnitude and frequency of stresses applied on the cartilage. Joint movements produce tractional forces that may cause shear stresses contributing to cartilage wear and fatigue. Tractional forces are the result of frictional forces caused by the cartilage surface rubbing and of plowing forces caused by the translation of a stress-field through the cartilage matrix, as the intra-articular space changes during motion. Translation of the stress-field in mediolateral direction seems to be particularly important for the integrity of the TMJ disk because of its anisotropic properties. Dynamic stereometry showed that stress-fields translate in mediolateral direction during opening/closing, protrusion and laterotrusion, and that their translatory velocity varies intraindividually and with the rate of the condylar movement. Furthermore, the results seem to indicate that the lateral area of the TMJ disk is more often exposed to shear stresses caused by stress-field translation than the medial one. In conclusion, dynamic stereometry provides a good visualization of the movement of the condyles in the respective fossae. This helps improving our understanding for the complexity of condylar movements. The technique may also contribute to ameliorate our knowledge of TMJ biomechanics and therefore of the etiology of degenerative joint diseases and possibly also of internal derangement.