What are the strongest skeletal muscles in the human body? Well if you guessed the jaw muscles, you are correct!
While there may be some debate on this, it is widely believed that the masseter is the strongest in the human body, at least by weight. This is because of the type of effort they exert. Unlike other skeletal muscles in your body, your jaw muscles constantly work against different surfaces that are hard, ie. when chewing. With all the jaw muscles working together, it can close your teeth with an average force as great as 55 lbs on the incisors, and up to 275 lbs on the molars!
Now, you may have heard that humans have weak jaws, at least compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. And while that might be true compared to other animals (the alligator’s bite is 3,700 pounds per square inch, for an extreme example), the flaw in our bite is not the muscles, but the teeth. We don’t exert the full force of our bite due to our bodies telling us that it isn’t a good idea- no one wants to break a tooth.
In one study, almost all participants stopped short of their full bite potential, with almost all citing that “it made their teeth hurt”. In this study, the record for bite strength was around 275 lbs in the molars. The record for strength on the incisors was 75 lbs- the researchers believed that this female student’s bite was stronger due to her constantly chewing on her pencils, a harder surface than most people tend to gnaw on regularly. With that in mind, researchers posited that without the mind’s resistance to using our full strength when biting down, our jaws might be stronger than we think!