Human subjects commonly show large variations in bite force produced at the first molar teeth. To evaluate the role of muscle cross-sectional sizes and lever arms in bite-force production, we correlated these variables in 11 healthy adults. Axial and coronal images obtained by magnetic resonance were combined with conventional lateral cephalograms and dental cast data to reconstruct the craniomandibular morphology in each subject. The cross-sectional sizes of the right masseter and medial pterygoid muscles, their lever arms, and the bite-point lever arms were measured directly from these reconstructions. Physiological recordings of bite force were made in the region of the right first molar by means of a customized transducer aligned perpendicular to the functional occlusal plane. The average bite force for the sample as a whole was 189 ± 78 N. The coefficients of variance were greater for bite forces, and for the cross-sectional sizes of the two muscles, than for their respective lever arms. Highly significant Pearson Product Moment correlation coefficients (p<0.005) were found between masseter and medial pterygoid cross-sectional size, and between the cross-sectional size of each muscle and bite force. No significant correlations (p>0.1) were found between muscle or bite-point lever arms and bite force. Despite the fact that craniofacial spatial morphology may differ among subjects, jaw muscle size alone seems to explain most of the variation in bite force reported by ourselves and others.
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