The distribution of the auriculotemporal nerve around the temporomandibular joint

Brian Schmidt, M. Anthony Pogrel, Marcos Necoechea, Gerard Kearns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective. The purpose of this cadaver dissection was to study the position of the auriculotemporal nerve in relation to the mandibular condyle, capsular tissues, articular fossa, and lateral pterygoid muscle and to evaluate the anatomic possibility of nerve impingement or irritation by the surrounding structures. Study design. Eight cadaveric heads (16 sides) were dissected. The auriculotemporal nerve was identified by following its course around the middle meningeal artery. The course of the nerve trunk was dissected from the middle meningeal artery to the terminal branches within the temporomandibular disk. The horizontal distance between the auriculotemporal nerve and the medial portion of the condyle/condylar neck was measured. The vertical distance from the most superior portion of the articular condyle to the superior border of the auriculotemporal nerve was measured. Results. The auriculotemporal nerve was identified on each side, and a single trunk was evident along the medial aspect of the condylar neck. At the posterior border of the lateral pterygoid muscle, the nerve trunk was in direct contact with the condylar neck in every specimen. The average vertical distance between the superior condyle and the nerve was 7.06 mm (± 3.21 mm); the range was 0 to 13 mm. The vertical distance between the nerve and the superior condyle on one side of the specimen did not correlate with the distance on the contralateral side. Conclusion. The auriculotemporal nerve trunk has a close anatomic relationship with the condyle and the temporomandibular joint capsular region, and there is evidence of a possible mechanism for sensory disturbances in the temporomandibular joint region. In all cases, the nerve was in direct contact with the medial aspect of the capsule or condylar neck. Because there is no correlation between the positions of the nerves on the right and left sides, only one side may be affected. The nerve was also observed to course in direct apposition to the lateral pterygoid muscle. The findings support the hypothesis that the anatomic and clinical relationship of the auriculotemporal nerve to the condyle, articular fossa, and lateral pterygoid muscle may be causally related to compression or irritation of the nerve, producing numbness or pain, or both, in the temporomandibular joint region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-168
Number of pages4
JournalOral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Surgery
  • Dentistry(all)

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