Morphometric analysis of the mandible in growing rats with different masticatory functional demands: adaptation to an upper posterior bite block

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Functional appliances displace the mandible forward and/or downward, causing a stretching of the orofacial soft tissues, muscles included. The resulting forces are directly or indirectly transmitted to the underlying dento-skeletal tissues. The hypothesis underlying the present investigation was that the insertion of a bite-opening appliance influences the lateral morphology of the rat mandible during growth, and that, moreover, this influence depends on the masticatory functional demands. One-hundred and four 4-wk-old male albino rats were divided into two groups, fed a hard and soft diet, respectively. After 2 wk, half of the animals in each experimental group were fitted with upper posterior blocks, and 4 wk later they were killed. Their left hemi-mandibles were transilluminated, photographed under magnification, and digitized on screen. A total of 170 points were used to draw the lateral outline of the mandible. In addition to the inhibitory effect on the height of the dento-alveolar process, the upper bite block resulted in significant changes in the condyle inclination, the length of the coronoid process, and the occlusal plane inclination. Masticatory functional demands influenced this adaptation in an additive way. The results raise the question of whether orthodontic treatment with posterior bite blocks might have different effects on the mandible, depending on the characteristics of the orofacial soft tissues.

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