Palpation of the lateral pterygoid region in TMD - Where is the evidence?

J. C. Türp, S. Minagi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Palpation of the lower head of the lateral pterygoid muscle is included in many study protocols and examination schemes of the masticatory system. The aim of this investigation was to search the medical/dental literature to find evidence for the validity and reliability of this diagnostic procedure. Methods:A systematic search was carried out using different electronic databases (Medline Ovid, PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase, Current Contents Connect, Science Citation Index, Web of Science, Japana Centra Revuo Medicina), supplemented by handsearch in selected journals and by examination of the bibliographies of the identified articles. Results: Validity: As far as the palpability of the inferior head of the lateral pterygoid muscle is concerned, five publications representing four studies could be identified. According to these investigations, the lateral pterygoid muscle is practically inaccessible for intraoral palpation due to topographical and anatomical reasons. Other anatomical structures, such as the superficial head of the medial pterygoid muscle, may be palpated instead in this region. Reliability: Determination of the palpability of the lateral pterygoid muscle is characterized by poor interexaminer agreement. Studies investigating the presence of pain in response to palpation of the lateral pterygoid area revealed a moderate intra- and interindividual reliability. Because of the tenderness of the lateral pterygoid region even among healthy subjects, positive findings may lead to wrong conclusions with regard to the need of treatment. Conclusions: Considering the lack of validity and reliability associated with the palpation of the lateral pterygoid area, this diagnostic procedure should be discarded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-483
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dentistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2001


  • Clinical examination
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Intraoral palpation
  • Lateral pterygoid muscle
  • Medial pterygoid muscle
  • Reliability
  • Research diagnostic criteria (RDC/TMD)
  • Systematic review
  • Temporomandibular disorders
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Palpation of the lateral pterygoid region in TMD - Where is the evidence?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this