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Cranial synovial joints and ligaments

Other Terms: Cranial ligaments of the jaw


The complex temporomandibular joint differs from most joints in the body. An articular disc usually completely separates the joint into two separate synovial capsules above and below the disc. The articular surfaces have a covering of dense fibrocartilage rather than the typical hyaline cartilage of most synovial joints. With its associated ligaments this joint structure accounts for the complex series of movements that are essential during the activities of eating and speech.


Each temporomandibular joint is considered an ellipsoid joint, both joints together form a bicondylar joint.

Articular Surfaces

Articular tubercle and the mandibular fossa of temporal bone with the mandibular condyle

Close-packed position

Full depression


The fibrous membrane of the articular capsule varies around the joint. On the lateral side it spans from temporal bone to the mandible. Anteriorly, medially, and posteriorly the fibers attach from mandible and temporal bone to the articular disc. Extrinsic ligaments that help stabilize the joint are the lateral temporomandibular ligament, sphenomandibular ligament, and stylomandibular ligament.


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