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Temporomandibular joint: want to learn more about it?

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Temporomandibular joint

Learning objectives

This study unit will allow you to:

  1. Describe the articular surfaces of the temporomandibular joint.
  2. Identify other main components and supporting structures.
  3. List the movements performed at this joint.

Browse atlas

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the skull to the mandible or lower jaw. It is located between the mandibular fossa and articular tubercle of the temporal bone and the condylar process of the mandible. It is classified as a synovial-type joint, however, is atypical in that its articular surfaces are lined by fibrocartilage rather than hyaline cartilage. The TMJs facilitate a range of movements of the lower jaw namely depression/elevation, lateral deviation (left or right), and protraction/retraction.

If you want to dig deeper into the anatomy of the TMJ, check out our atlas below!

Review everything you learned today in the image gallery below!

Take a quiz

Test your knowledge of the temporomandibular joint by taking our quiz below!

If you want to expand your knowledge even further, try our custom quiz creator. In the link below you’ll find the preset for a quiz about all the structures of the head.

Summary

Key points about the temporomandibular joint
Articular surfaces Temporal bone: Mandibular fossa and articular tubercle
Mandible
: Condylar process
Components Joint capsule
Synovial membrane
Articular disc (anterior/posterior bands, intermediate zone)
Cavities Superior (discotemporal) cavity (translational movement)
Inferior (discomandibular) cavity (rotational movement)
Ligaments Major: Lateral temporomandibular ligament (thickened lateral portion of capsule, strengthens TMJ laterally)
Minor
: Stylomandibular ligament, sphenomandibular ligament
Key points about the movements of mandible at the TMJ
Rotational movements Elevation: Temporalis, masseter and medial pterygoid muscles

Depression
: Lateral pterygoid, digastric, geniohyoid and mylohyoid muscles
Translational movements Protrusion: Lateral pterygoid and medial pterygoid muscles

Retraction
: Posterior fibers of temporalis, deep part of masseter, geniohyoid and digastric muscles

Lateral deviation
(left or right): Posterior fibers of temporalis, digastric, mylohyoid and geniohyoid muscles (ipsilateral movement); lateral and medial pterygoid muscles (contralateral movement)

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