Both clinical and empirical evidence suggests that the “normal” temporomandibular joint produces noise during function. The purpose of this study was to determine the conditions under which these noises might arise. Joint sounds and mandibular movements were recorded simultaneously from 200 adults who had no previous history or present symptoms of TMJ pain or dysfunction. The joint sounds were recorded bilaterally by means of two separate miniature vibration transducers mounted on a common headband, and incisal point mandibular movements were measured by a magnetometer tracking system. Recordings were made while each subject opened and closed the mouth, first in a natural and comfortable manner, and then to maximum displacement. Two types of measurements were made: the appearance, onset, and duration of joint-propagated sounds in relation to relative mandibular position; and the spectral properties of the detected sounds. The results of this study showed that for natural opening and closing movements of the mandible, the “normal” TMJ was silent for all age groups. However, for the maximum displacement condition, detectable sounds appeared at the points of maximum displacement in both the opening and closing phases of the cycle in over 80 percent of the subjects. However, these sounds were, as a class, substantially longer than, and spectrally distinct from, abnormal joint sounds, suggesting that they arise from a distinct physical substrate.
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