• B. Christian

Muscles of Mastication (Chewing)

I don't know about you but I have a love/ hate relationship with food. It tastes so good, but my hips want to hog it all! Do you know how many muscles it takes for you to eat your favorite food?


We will talk about these muscles and explain their actions.

The muscles of chewing are associated with movements of the jaw. They are one of the major muscle groups in the head – the other being the muscles of facial expression.

There are four muscles

  • Masseter

  • Temporalis

  • Medial Pterygoid

  • Lateral Pterygoid


The masseter muscle is the most powerful muscle of mastication. It is four-sided in shape and can be split into two parts; deep and superficial. The entirety of the muscle lies on top of the pterygoids and temporalis, covering them.

Actions: Elevates the mandible, closing the mouth.


The temporalis muscle originates from the temporal fossa – a shallow depression on the side of the skull. The muscle is covered by tough fibrous tissue which can be harvested surgically and used to repair a perforated eardrum.

Actions: Elevates the mandible, closing the mouth. It also retracts the mandible, pulling the jaw posteriorly.

Medial Pterygoid

The medial pterygoid muscle has a four-sided shape, with two heads; deep and superficial. It is located behind the lateral pterygoid.

Actions: Elevates the mandible, closing the mouth.

Lateral Pterygoid

The lateral pterygoid muscle has a triangular shape, with two heads; superior and inferior. It has horizontally orientated muscle fibers and therefore is responsible for opening the mouth.


Bilaterally, the lateral pterygoids protract the mandible, pushing the jaw forward.

Unilateral action produces the ‘side to side’ movement of the jaw.

All of these muscles work together in harmony allowing us to chew our food.

Noticing some soreness?

We offer facial massages that can help with headaches jaw pain and more!

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Leah  Buckbee


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