This study correlated maximum bite force and masticatory muscle electromyography (EMG) activity with craniofacial morphology and mechanical advantage of children with vertical growth patterns. From lateral cephalograms of 30 females and 17 males (9.3 ± 3.6 years of age), 13 morphological and eight biomechanical measurements were recorded. Two maximum bite forces and 12 submaximal bite forces along with their associated EMG muscle activity were recorded at the right mandibular first molar. Muscle efficiency was evaluated using the relationship between bite forces and EMG activity levels. There were no significant sex differences (P > 0.05) for any of the morphological, functional or biomechanical variables. Factor analyses reduced: (1) the 13 morphological variables to four factors explaining 82.8 per cent of the morphological variance; (2) six functional variables to two factors explaining 68.8 per cent of the functional variance; and (3) 11 biomechanical variables to three factors explaining 90.9 per cent of the biomechanical variance. The vertical size factor was negatively correlated with the muscle efficiency factor (r = -0.39; P = 0.006) and positively correlated with the moment arm factor (r = 0.67; P < 0.001). The morphological divergence factor was negatively correlated with the bite force factor (r = -0.34; P = 0.019) and the mechanical advantage factor (r = -0.32; P = 0.028). The muscle efficiency factor (functional) was negatively correlated with the moment arm factor (r = -0.33; P = 0.023). It is concluded that: (1) independent of chronological age, children with larger faces have larger moment arms and require less muscle activity to attain any given force, and (2) greater hyperdivergence is related to poorer mechanical advantage and lower maximum bite force. These data support the relationships between bite force, muscle strength and morphology in children, similar to those reported for adults.
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