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.
- Periodontal ligament