Influence of Masticatory Muscle Function on Transverse Skull Dimensions in the Growing Rat
The effect of altered masticatory muscle function on bone mass at different sites in the rat mandible was studied using aluminium as a reference substance in computer-assisted image analysis. Forty-two growing male rats were divided into three groups, of which one group was killed at the beginning of the experiment to provide baseline values. Of the remaining two, one received a hard diet (control group) and the other a soft diet. After 28 days the rats were killed and the mandibles were excised. Lateral radiographs were taken of the mandible halves together with an aluminium stepwedge and then analysed by an image analysis system. Radiographic bone mass was measured in the transverse plane as "aluminium-equivalent thickness' in millimetres. Standardized areas were chosen to investigate regions with different functional demands. Significant differences were found between the groups in the alveolar bone of the molars and the incisor, as well as in the condylar costa and the condylar process. Significant differences were also found in some areas related to muscle insertion, such as the anterior lower border of the ramus, whereas no statistically significant differences could be found in others, such as the posterior lower border of the angular process. In conclusion, altered masticatory function influences the amount of bone mass in certain parts of mandible, where changes in applied bending forces have possibly altered the bone strain.