Joint Development - Temporomandibular Joint

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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a bilateral synovial articulation between the ends of the mandible (lower jaw) and temporal bone, part of the skull. Both mastication and facial muscles are attached to the lower jaw. The earliest review of human embryonic and fetal TMJ development is by Symons in 1952.[1]

In the adult, the region where two skeletal bones meet and articulate is called a "joint", that are classified based upon their: anatomical structure, mobility and shape. In the embryo, the majority of the vertebrate skeleton is initially formed as a cartilage template, that is later replaced by bone except at the interface between two adjacent bones, leaving in the adult a layer of cartilage in this region. The musculoskeletal system consists of skeletal muscle, bone, and cartilage and is mainly mesoderm in origin with some neural crest contribution.

Joint Links: joint | synovial joint | temporomandibular joint | musculoskeletal | cartilage | Category:Joint
Historic Embryology  
1940 Synovial Joints | 1952 Mandibular Joint

Historic Embryology:

Musculoskeletal Links: Introduction | mesoderm | somitogenesis | limb | cartilage | bone | bone timeline | bone marrow | shoulder | pelvis | axial skeleton | skull | joint | skeletal muscle | muscle timeline | tendon | diaphragm | Lecture - Musculoskeletal | Lecture Movie | musculoskeletal abnormalities | limb abnormalities | developmental hip dysplasia | cartilage histology | bone histology | Skeletal Muscle Histology | Category:Musculoskeletal
Historic Embryology - Musculoskeletal  
1853 Bone | 1885 Sphenoid | 1902 - Pubo-femoral Region | Spinal Column and Back | Body Segmentation | Cranium | Body Wall, Ribs, and Sternum | Limbs | 1901 - Limbs | 1902 - Arm Development | 1906 Human Embryo Ossification | 1906 Lower limb Nerves and Muscle | 1907 - Muscular System | Skeleton and Limbs | 1908 Vertebra | 1908 Cervical Vertebra | 1909 Mandible | 1910 - Skeleton and Connective Tissues | Muscular System | Coelom and Diaphragm | 1913 Clavicle | 1920 Clavicle | 1921 - External body form | Connective tissues and skeletal | Muscular | Diaphragm | 1929 Rat Somite | 1932 Pelvis | 1940 Synovial Joints | 1943 Human Embryonic, Fetal and Circumnatal Skeleton | 1947 Joints | 1949 Cartilage and Bone | 1957 Chondrification Hands and Feet | 1968 Knee

Some Recent Findings

  • Review - Diagnostic ultrasound assessment of temporomandibular joints[2] "The purpose of this systematic review was to determine the diagnostic capability of Ultrasound (US) to assess TMJ alterations as disc displacement (DD), joint effusion (JE) and condylar changes (CC) using 3D imaging modalities as reference standard. ...This systematic review demonstrated the US has acceptable capability to screen for DD and JE in TMD patients. For screening of condylar changes, US needs further studies using CT or CBCT as reference standard to support its use. More advanced imaging such as MRI can thereafter be used to confirm the diagnosis if deemed necessary."
  • Overexpression of Indian hedgehog partially rescues short stature homeobox 2-overexpression‑associated congenital dysplasia of the temporomandibular joint in mice[3] "The role of short stature homeobox 2 (shox2) in the development and homeostasis of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) has been well documented. Shox2 is known to be expressed in the progenitor cells and perichondrium of the developing condyle. A previous study by our group reported that overexpression of shox2 leads to congenital dysplasia of the TMJ via downregulation of the Indian hedgehog (Ihh) signaling pathway, which is essential for embryonic disc primordium formation and mandibular condylar growth. To determine whether overexpression of Ihh may rescue the overexpression of shox2 leading to congenital dysplasia of the TMJ, a mouse model in which Ihh and shox2 were overexpressed (Wnt1-Cre; pMes-stop shox2; pMes-stop Ihh mice) was utilized to assess the consequences of this overexpression on TMJ development during post-natal life. ... These combinatory cellular and molecular defects appeared to account for the observed congenital dysplasia of TMJ, suggesting that overexpression of Ihh partially rescued shox2 overexpression‑associated congenital dysplasia of the TMJ in mice." mouse |OMIM IHH | OMIM SHOX2
  • Analysis by Light, Scanning, and Transmission Microscopy of the Intima Synovial of the Temporomandibular Joint of Human Fetuses during the Development[4] "To characterize morphologically and ultrastructurally using light microscopy, the scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy the intima synovial of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) of human fetuses between the 10th and the 38th week of development. Materials and Methods. The TMJ was dissected bilaterally in 37 human fetuses belonging to the Institute of Embryology of the University Complutense of Madrid and of the Federal University of São Paulo. Results. The outcome by light microscopy showed the morphology of the TMJ and that the formation of inferior joint cavity precedes the superior joint cavity and the presence of blood vessels in the synovial. Conclusion. By scanning and transmission electron microscopy we observed the presence of two well-defined cell types in the intima layer of synovial of the TMJ of human fetuses, macrophage-like type A cell and fibroblast-like type B cell, and the presence of the a third cell type, defined by the name of intermediate lining cell in the intima layer of the synovial."
More recent papers  
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Search term: Temporomandibular Joint Development

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Older papers  

Fetal Development

These images are from a recent article on fetal human TMJ development.[4] Weeks are GA.

Fetal temporomandibular joint 01.jpg

Week 10 Human fetus (55 mm GL)
frontal section (Stain - Haematoxylin Eosin) Bar = 100u m. The inferior joint cavity is between the articular disc (D) and the mandibular condyle (C). Squamous part of the temporal bone (S); blood vessel (V); superficial temporal artery (TA).

Fetal temporomandibular joint 02.jpg

Week 12 Human fetus (95 mm GL)
frontal section (Stain - Haematoxylin Eosin) Bar = 200u m. The superior and inferior joint cavities are visible. Articular disc (D). Blood vessel (V); squamous part of temporal bone (S); mandibular condyle (C); superficial temporal artery (TA).

Fetal temporomandibular joint 03.jpg

Week 14 Human fetus (125 mm GL)
sagittal section (Stain - Haematoxylin Eosin) Bar = 200 u m. Blood vessel (V) and blood cells (arrows) are visible at the synovial. The inferior joint cavity is between the articular disc (D) and the mandibular condyle (C). Squamous part of the temporal bone (S); blood vessel (V); superficial temporal artery (TA).

Fetal temporomandibular joint 04.jpg

Week 18 Human fetus (175 mm GL).
Section of the posterior region of the superior joint cavity. Blood vessel (V); lining cells are visible at the synovial (arrows).

Fetal temporomandibular joint 05.jpg

Week 28 Human fetus (233 mm GL).
SEM the inferior joint cavity on the fibrous portion (C) of the condyle, the articular disc (D), and the synovial (arrows) is observed.

Fetal temporomandibular joint 06.jpg

Week 32 Human fetus (300 mm GL)
SEM the synovial lining cell (A) with a smooth surface formed by polygonal cells with clear limits (arrows).

Joint Types


  • Fibrous (synarthrodial) - immoveable joints found in cranial vault and teeth
  • Cartilagenous (synchondroses and sympheses) - partially moveable joints
  • Synovial (diarthrosis) - freely moveable joints are the most common found in the skeleton


Mouse neck joint articular cartilage. Cartilage Histology
  • Hinge - (elbow and knee) Flexion/Extension
  • Pivot - (neck, atlas and axis bones) Rotation of one bone around another
  • Ball and Socket - (shoulder and hip)
  • Saddle - (thumb)
  • Condyloid - (wrist joints)
  • Gliding - (intercarpal joints) Gliding movements


Indian Hedgehog (IHH)

  • Human cytogenetic location - 2q35
  • 336 amino acid protein.
  • Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) and IHH N-terminals share 91.4% identity, C-terminal halves significantly different.
  • expressed in the prehypertrophic chondrocytes of cartilage elements.

Links: Sonic hedgehog | OMIM IHH

Short Stature Homeobox 2 (SHOX2)

  • Human cytogenetic location - 3q25.32


Temporomandibular Abnormalities


1910 - Tempomandibular Joint[5]

This joint is developed between the membrane which covers the condyle of the mandible and the periosteum of the squamosum. In the loose tissue between the two a condensation marks the beginning of the differentiation of the discus articularis. On each side of this discus a joint cavity develops. Each joint cavity is throughout life lined by fibrous tissue. Beneath the joint periosteum of the mandible and of the temporal bone a thin layer of cartilage is produced (see Kjellberg, 1904).

  • according to Walliseh (1906), in the new-bom the tubereulum articulare is still undeveloped and the condyle is flatter than in the adult. The condyle reaches its definitive form and the tubereulum is developed after the teeth appear.
  • according to Fuebs (1905), tbe temparomandibular joint in rabbits, and hence by inference in other mammals, is homologous with the quadra to-articular joint of reptiles. As mentioned above, following Reiehert, most investigators have come to the conclusion that the reptilian quadra to-articular joint is represented in mammals by tbe joint between the malleus and incus, while the temporomandibular joint of mammals is phylogenetieally a new structure, a squamosodental joint. (See Gaupp, 1906.)


  1. SYMONS NB. (1952). The development of the human mandibular joint. J. Anat. , 86, 326-32. PMID: 12980883
  2. Almeida FT, Major P, Jaremko JL, Le LH, Flores-Mir C & Pachêco-Pereira C. (2018). Diagnostic ultrasound assessment of temporomandibular joints: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Dentomaxillofac Radiol , , 20180144. PMID: 30285469 DOI.
  3. Li X, Liang W, Ye H, Weng X, Liu F, Lin P & Liu X. (2015). Overexpression of Indian hedgehog partially rescues short stature homeobox 2-overexpression-associated congenital dysplasia of the temporomandibular joint in mice. Mol Med Rep , 12, 4157-64. PMID: 26096903 DOI.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Alvez CS, Carvalho de Moraes LO, Marques SR, Tedesco RC, Harb LJ, Rodríguez-Vázquez JF, Mérida-Velasco JR & Alonso LG. (2014). Analysis by Light, Scanning, and Transmission Microscopy of the Intima Synovial of the Temporomandibular Joint of Human Fetuses during the Development. Anat Res Int , 2014, 732720. PMID: 24527214 DOI.
  5. Bardeen CR. XI. Development of the Skeleton and of the Connective Tissues in Keibel F. and Mall FP. Manual of Human Embryology I. (1910) J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Online Textbooks

Developmental Biology Gilbert, Scott F. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates, Inc. ; c2000 Forming the joints


Kaneyama K, Segami N & Hatta T. (2008). Congenital deformities and developmental abnormalities of the mandibular condyle in the temporomandibular joint. Congenit Anom (Kyoto) , 48, 118-25. PMID: 18778456 DOI.

Abramowicz S, Marshall CJ, Dolwick MF & Cohen D. (2007). Vascular malformation of the temporomandibular joint: report of a case and review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod , 103, 203-6. PMID: 17234536 DOI.

SYMONS NB. (1952). The development of the human mandibular joint. J. Anat. , 86, 326-32. PMID: 12980883


Mérida-Velasco JR, Rodríguez-Vázquez JF, Mérida-Velasco JA, Sánchez-Montesinos I, Espín-Ferra J & Jiménez-Collado J. (1999). Development of the human temporomandibular joint. Anat. Rec. , 255, 20-33. PMID: 10321990

Perry HT, Xu Y & Forbes DP. (1985). The embryology of the temporomandibular joint. Cranio , 3, 125-32. PMID: 3855934

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, June 12) Embryology Joint Development - Temporomandibular Joint. Retrieved from

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