Tuatara And People With False Teeth

As people age, their dentures don’t change, but their mouths do. If you have false teeth, they should fit and you should be wearing them. Proper care and regular dental visits are important factors for keeping your mouth healthy and your dentures in good shape.
 
Problems from Poor Fitting Dentures
 
With age, the gum ridges in our mouths can shrink, causing dentures to become loose. Bone can also shrink, causing jaws not to line up properly. Loose dentures can cause sore spots in your mouth as well as stomach problems from not being able to chew food properly. A loose denture could also cause changes in your facial features.
 
When do Dentures Need to be Replaced?
 
If your dentures are in a drawer because they just “don’t feel right”, they are loose or make sore spots in your mouth, you should see a dentist to have them evaluated and possibly adjusted, relined or remade. If the teeth in your dentures are considerably worn out, talk to your dentist about having some new ones made. It is also important to continue with regular dental visits to make sure your teeth are fitting properly as well as to be examined for any signs of oral cancer. Your dentist can tell you how often you need to come in for check ups.
 
Using a moving 3D computer model based on the skull and teeth of a New Zealand reptile called tuatara, a BBSRC-funded team from the University of Hull, University College London and the Hull York Medical School has revealed how damage to dental implants and jaw joints may be prevented by sophisticated interplay between our jaws, muscles and brain. This research will appear in a future edition of the Journal of Biomechanics. 
 
The tuatara is a lizard-like reptile that has iconic status in its homeland of New Zealand because its ancestors were widespread at the time of the dinosaurs. Unlike mammals and crocodiles which have teeth held in sockets by a flexible ligament, tuatara have teeth that are fused to their jaw bone - they have no ligament, much like modern dental implants. 
 
BBSRC postdoctoral fellow Dr Neil Curtis from the University of Hull said "Humans and many other animals prevent damage to their teeth and jaws when eating because the ligament that holds each tooth in place also feeds back to the brain to warn against biting too hard." 
 
Dr Marc Jones from UCL, also a BBSRC postdoctoral fellow, added "In the sugar-rich western world many people end up losing their teeth and have to live with dentures or dental implants instead. They've also lost the periodontal ligament that would attach their teeth so we wanted to know how their brains can tell what's going on when they are eating." 
 
The team has created a 3-D computer model of the skull of the tuatara to investigate the feedback that occurs between the jaw joints and muscles in a creature that lacks periodontal ligaments. 
 
"Tuataras live happily for over 60 years in the wild without replacing their teeth because they have the ability to unconsciously measure the forces in their jaw joint and adjust the strength of the jaw muscle contractions accordingly", said Dr Curtis. 
 
Although this explains why tuatara and people with false teeth manage not to break their teeth and don't end up with jaw joint disorders, it is still clear that having a periodontal ligament is very useful, in particular for fine tuning chewing movements. This may explain why it has evolved independently in the ancestors of mammals, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and even some fish. 
 
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