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Dentists Claim to Have Found New Muscle in the Skull

February 13, 1996

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Two Baltimore dentists say they have discovered something anatomists have overlooked for centuries: a muscle that runs from behind the eye socket to the jawbone.

The 1 1/2-inch muscle assists in chewing and may be the source of some hard-to-treat headaches, Dr. Gary Hack said.

Hack and Dr. Gwendolyn Dunn, who teach at the University of Maryland’s dental school, were to present their findings Tuesday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The muscle was discovered when researchers conducted an autopsy of the head from an unusual angle, Hack said. It was later found in 25 cadavers and in living patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans.

``Anatomical dissection has been done since Michelanglo and it would be unusual that that muscle was missed,″ said Dr. Steven Ashman, a professor of oral and facial surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. ``We’ll need to have verification from other centers. If it is confirmed, then they have a discovery.″

Hack said the scientists had researched anatomical literature, some going back a hundred years, and couldn’t find a description of the muscle.

Yet, he said, it is very common for patients to experience pain behind the eye that is associated with chewing. Such headaches often are difficult to treat.

``We now have a muscle that is behind the eye,″ he said. ``If it has a relationship with the pain, then a new treatment may be developed.″

Hack said the muscle _ they’re calling it sphenomandibularis _ was discovered when his research team conducted an autopsy by dissecting a head from front to rear. Usually, the muscles of the head are cut away from the side.

Previously, radiologists misidentified the sphenomandibularis as the medial pterygoid, which is also attached to the jaw. Hack’s team determined that the sphenomandibularis is distinct from the medial pterygoid.

When the researchers showed radiologists the new muscle, Hack said, ``they were amazed.″

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