The mandibular condyle is a rounded projection at the end of the lower jaw, or mandible. This particular part of the lower jaw articulates, or unites, with the skull. It is actually better known as the condyloid process, which refers to the condyle itself and another part of the lower jaw. The mandibular condyle greatly contributes to the ability to rotate the head.
The lower jaw, from a side angle, resembles the shape of the letter L. At the top, positioned at the rear end, is the mandibular condyle. The area immediately below it is referred to as the neck of the condyloid process. It functions as the constricted support system of the mandibular condyle.
It is this condyle that provides the attachment to the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. This joint of the jaw is formed from two bones: the mandible itself, and the upper temporal bone. The latter is located at the base and sides of the skull, and supports the area between the eyes known as the temple. An articular disc, which is a thin and oval structure made up of fibrocartilage, helps to form the temporomandibular joint in its location between the mandible and the upper temporal bone. The mandibular condyle provides the surface necessary for the articular disc to accomplish this function.
The mandibular condyle also assists in the attachment of the temporomandibular ligament. Also known as the external lateral ligament, it comprises two thin and short fasciculi. These fiber bundles that comprise the temporomandibular ligament are attached to the lower jaw via the neck of the condyloid process — more specifically, at the neck’s lateral surface and rear border. The temporomandibular ligament helps prevent the lower jaw’s rear displacement as well as the condyloid process from going upward, which could fracture the skull’s base in the event of a blow or some other kind of force.
At the opposite end of the mandibular condyle, separated by the U-shaped curve known as the mandibular notch, is the coronoid. It is also referred to as the coronoid process or coronoid process of the mandible. Thin and triangular, it derives its name from the Greek word korone, which means “like a crown.” This part of the mandible, however, is not as prominent as the mandibular condyle, which is thicker and larger. Supporting both the condyloid and coronoid processes is the ramus; this part has two surfaces and four borders, and plays a part in the innervation of the mandible and the lower teeth it supports.