Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


An evolutionary compromise for long tooth preservation

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt have conducted stress analyses on gorilla teeth of differing wear stages.

Their findings show that different features of the occlusal surface antagonize tensile stresses in the tooth to tooth contact during the chewing process. They further show that tooth wear with its loss of dental tissue and the reduction of the occlusal relief decreases tensile stresses in the tooth. Thus, when the condition of the occlusal surface changes, the biomechanical requirements on the existing dental material change as well – an evolutionary compromise for tooth preservation.

Maximal principal stress distribution observed in three gorilla teeth of an unworn (left), a lightly worn (middle) and a worn (right) condition. © MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology

First, the researchers created 3D digital models of three gorilla lower second molars differing in wear stages. In a second step they applied a Software tool (Occlusal Fingerprint Analyser) developed in the Senckenberg Research Institute to precisely determine tooth to tooth contacts. They then used an engineering approach, finite element analysis (FEA), to evaluate whether some dental traits usually found in hominin and extant great ape molars have important biomechanical implications.

The results show that in unworn and slightly worn molars (with a well-formed occlusal relief that is most effective for processing food) tensile stresses concentrate in the grooves of the occlusal surface. In such a condition, the different crests of a molar carry out important biomechanical functions, for example, by reinforcing the crown against stresses that occur during the chewing process. Due to a loss of tooth tissue and a reduction of the occlusal relief the functionality of these crests diminishes during an individual’s lifetime. However, this reduced functionality of the crests in worn teeth is counterbalanced by an increase in contact areas during tooth to tooth contacts, which ultimately contributes to a dispersion of the forces that affect the occlusal surface.

This suggests that the wear process might have a crucial influence in the evolution and structural adaptation of molars enabling to endure bite forces and to reduce tooth failure throughout the lifetime of an individual. “It seems that we observe an evolutionary compromise for long tooth preservation. Even though worn teeth are not as efficient they still fulfill their task. This would not be the case if they were lost prematurely“, says Stefano Benazzi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He adds: “Tooth evolution and dental biomechanics can only be understood, if we further investigate tooth function in respect to the dynamic changes of tooth structures during the lifespan of individuals”.

“The results have strong implications for understanding the functional biomechanics of dental traits, for deciphering the evolutionary trend of our masticatory apparatus and might have important implications in modern dentistry for improving dental treatments”, says Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. [SJ]

Original publication:

Stefano Benazzi, Huynh Nhu Nguyen, Ottmar Kullmer, Jean-Jacques Hublin
Unravelling the functional biomechanics of dental features and tooth wear
PLOS ONE, July 23, 2013,
Dr. Stefano Benazzi
Department of Human Evolution
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-362
Email: stefano_benazzi@­
Dr. Ottmar Kullmer
Department of Palaeoanthropology and Messel Research
Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt/Main
Phone: +49 69 7542-1364
Email: okullmer@­
Press relations offices:
Sandra Jacob
Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-122
Fax: +49 341 3550-119
Regina Bartel
Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
Phone: +49 69 7542 1434

Dr. Sören Dürr | Senckenberg
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>