The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Biomechanical relationships between chewing efficiency and dental morphology in modern humans


1Department of Anthropology, New York University, 2Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, 3Department of Anthropology, New York Consortium of Evolutionary Primatology

Thursday 11:30-11:45, Broadway III/IV Add to calendar

The functional relationships between mastication and craniodental morphology have primarily been studied by examining bite force in relation to chewing efficiency and dental morphology. However, relatively little is known about the relationship between dental morphology and chewing efficiency. This study examined how aspects of dental morphology affect efficiency during mastication by measuring this relationship in healthy human adults. The slope, volume, and relief of each subject’s right first and second upper and lower molars were calculated in ArcGIS using three-dimensionally scanned dental casts. Participants completed a series of trials in which five almonds were chewed for 10, 20, and 30 seconds and 10, 20, and 30 masticatory cycles; chewing efficiency was calculated for each trial using particle size. High speed motion capture and electromyography were used to estimate the mechanical work performed while chewing. As expected, particle size decreased as chewing work (cycles or mechanical work) increased. We discuss the relative contributions of dental morphology and mechanical work to chewing performance across subjects, as well as potential application to the hominin fossil record.

Funding was generously provided by NYCEP, Hunter College, and NYU.

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