The role of gingival mechanoreceptors in the reflex control of human jaw-closing muscles

Christos Louca, Steven D. Vidgeon, Samuel W. Cadden, Roger W. A. Linden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electromyographic (EMG) experiments were undertaken to investigate the jaw reflexes evoked by activation of gingival receptors in 12 humans. EMG recordings were made from an active masseter muscle whilst ramp-plateau mechanical stimuli were applied to the gingiva. Stimuli with a constant rate of rise (0.2 N/msec) and a variable plateau force (up to 2 N), evoked a complex set of short- and long-latency inhibitory and excitatory responses. These occurred as a sequence of inhibition-excitation-inhibition-excitation, although not all of these elements were seen on every occasion. The median thresholds of these four responses ranged from 0.5 to 1 N but overall there were no significant differences between them (p > 0.05, Friedman's ANOVA). In other experiments, the same reflexes were recorded in response to application to the gingiva of 1 N ramp-plateau stimuli (5 msec rise time) and 1 N tap stimuli applied to the adjacent tooth. The application of a local anaesthetic agent to the stimulated gingiva produced reductions in the mean magnitude of almost all the responses but these were significant (p < 0.05; ANOVA) only for the long-latency inhibitions evoked by ramping the gingiva and the long- latency excitations evoked by either stimulus. It is concluded that mechanoreceptors in the gingiva can mediate long-latency inhibitory and excitatory jaw reflexes, and that these receptors may also contribute to long-latency reflexes evoked by tapping teeth. The scarcity of effects of gingival anaesthesia on the short-latency reflexes may be due to such responses being mediated by receptors deeper in the periodontium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Oral Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 1998


  • Mechanoreceptors
  • Periodontal ligament
  • Reflex


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