Based on a comprehensive computerized literature search supplemented by a specific manual search of the literature, the present review article focuses on concrete aspects of the application of surface electromyography (EMG) for evaluation of the masticatory muscles in general and of the masseter and anterior temporal muscles in particular, and presents the current base of knowledge on the clinical relevance of surface EMG in dental applications. In the first stage of the review, publications from the year 2000 or later reporting the results of controlled clinical trials (randomized as far as available) of patients with craniomandibular or temporomandibular disorders (TMD) were analyzed. Data from the selected publications were systematically compiled and divided into subject areas as follows: Resting activity, maximal and sub-maximal voluntary contraction, symmetry of EMG activity, and fatigue effects; EMG activity during mastication, factors (including pain) that affect EMG activity, and the impact of adjusting static and dynamic occlusal relationships; Effects of occlusal splints and other occlusal treatments. Surface electromyography is in principle a suitable tool for neuromuscular function analysis in the field of dentistry. If used according to the specific recommendations and in conjunction with a thorough and conscientious clinical history and physical examination, surface EMG measurements can provide objective, documentable, valid, and reproducible data on the functional condition of the masticatory muscles of an individual patient.
Keywords: electromyography, review, chewing, masticatory muscles, fatigue, maximal voluntary contraction, symmetry, resting activity, splint therapy, oral rehabilitation