The jaw closing muscles generate large forces when we split food morsels with our teeth: the impact energy required to split a raw carrot, for instance, is enough to fracture healthy enamel. The mechanisms that allow us to split hard food without damaging our teeth are unknown.
Unless the large forces generated when splitting food morsels are not dissipated extremely quickly, the teeth would be injured. Since the jaw reflexes are too slow to achieve this, humans must rely on other mechanisms. The aim of this project is to elucidate these mechanism and how they are expressed in healthy dentulous humans as well as in patients who had their occlusion rehabilitated with titanium implants.
The basic hypothesis that may explain the ability of the jaw muscle to build up and yet quickly dissipate large forces include in part by afferent nerves from the periodontal ligaments, in part by the compartmentalized structure of the jaw closing muscles. Data will be recorded in normal, dentulous participants to characterize normal jaw muscle control and its dependence on sensory information during biting behaviors. On the basis of these studies, a clinical paradigm will be developed, primarily to investigate patients with dental implants. The project thus aims at elucidating the mechanisms behind the intricate control of biting behaviors and to develop a clinically useful system for evaluating patients with periodontal diseases and with osseointegrated implants.