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The infratemporal fossa is an anatomical region deep to the ramus of the mandible that accommodates some muscles of mastication (temporalis, medial, and lateral pterygoid), nerves (mandibular nerve, otic ganglion, and chorda tympani nerve), and vessels (maxillary artery and pterygoid plexus of the veins).


The infratemporal fossa has the following boundaries (Figure 21-1A):

  • Anterior to the mastoid and styloid processes of the temporal bone.

  • Posterior to the maxilla.

  • Medial to the ramus of the mandible.

  • Lateral to the pterygoid plate and the pterygomaxillary fissure (a communication between the infratemporal fossa and the pterygopalatine fossa).

Figure 21-1:

A. Boundaries of the infratemporal fossa. B. Compartments of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). C. Opening of the TMJ. Superficial (D) and deep (E) views of muscles of mastication.


The articulations between the temporal bone (mandibular fossa) and the mandibular condyle form a synovial joint, known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

  • TMJ movements. The left and right TMJs work together, enabling the mandible to move as follows:

    • Elevation (up). Generated by the temporalis, masseter, and medial pterygoid muscles.

    • Depression (down). Generated by the digastricus, geniohyoid, and mylohyoid muscles, and assisted by gravity.

    • Protraction. Generated primarily through the lateral pterygoid muscle. Involves the anterior movement of the mandibular condyle and the articular disc.

    • Retraction. Generated by the geniohyoid, digastricus, and temporalis muscles.

    • Side to side. Generated by the pterygoid muscles.

  • TMJ structure. A unique feature of the TMJ is the fibrocartilaginous articular disc, located within the joint capsule between the mandibular fossa and condyle. The disc divides the joint capsule into two distinct compartments.

    • Inferior compartment. Enables the hinge-like rotation of the mandibular condyle, corresponding to the first 2 cm of opening the mouth (depression) (Figure 21-1B).

    • Superior compartment. For the mouth to be opened more than 2 cm, the superior compartment within the joint capsule enables both the mandibular condyle and the articular disc to slide anteriorly (protrusion), incorporating a translational movement anteriorly when opening the mouth wider (Figure 21-1C).

image TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder is associated with painful and limited movement of the jaw. The disorder is poorly understood because of the complexity of the TMJ, which incorporates hinge-like movements along with movements that slide anteriorly and from side to side. Symptoms of TMJ disorder include pain and tenderness in and around the jaw, difficulty and painful chewing, headache, and clicking sounds when the jaw opens and closes. TMJ disorder can occur when the articular disc is damaged, eroded, or slipped out of alignment.▼

  • Muscle movement of the TMJ. The muscles acting upon the TMJ are primarily the muscles that ...

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