The Strength of the Human Jawbone and Bite

Although the theory of evolution is one of great debate, there’s no denying that the human form is closely related to the form of apes. As a recent inductee to the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, Detroit dentist Dr. Aziza Askari wants to delve further into the similarities of humans and apes, specifically as they relate to the jawbone and bite.

The Evolution of the Human Jawbone

The jaw is one of the most powerful devices in the human body, but research shows that, over time, the strength of the human jawbone has decreased, causing us to lose the ability to generate a truly powerful bite. Why is this?

UK anthropologist Dr. Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel states that factors such as environment, daily habits, and diet impact the way humans have evolved over time. To test this theory, Taubadel studied the jawbones of people who lived in the past couple of thousand years. She found that people from hunter-gatherer societies had narrower, longer jaws, while people from agricultural societies had shorter, broader mandibles (lower jawbone). Today, the average North American/European jawbone is short and narrow, possibly as a result of softer food and less chewing.

Testing the Strength of the Human Bite

If the human jawbone has really evolved so much over the past thousand years, it’s easy to believe that the power of the modern human bite is not as powerful as it was centuries ago.

A recent study by Australian researchers, however, may prove this theory wrong.

We do know that compared to our ancient ancestors, members of modern society have significantly weaker jaw muscles and much lighter-weight skulls. These characteristics suggest that the strength of the human bite has changed over time, but it’s important to note that many characteristics of our primate ancestors’ jaws exist in a typical human jaw. In fact, the thick layer of enamel on each human tooth is a blatant similarity.

To test for similarities in the bite strengths of modern day humans and apes, Stephen Wroe of the University of New South Wales in Sydney employed the use of 3D finite element analysis.

The Results

Wroe and his colleagues found the following as results of their research:

  • The design of the human jaw makes it 40 to 50 percent more efficient than the jaws of most great apes.
  • Once body size is taken into consideration, the human jaw is actually able to bite harder than a gorilla or chimpanzee when measured pound for pound.
  • Human bite force is very forceful for cracking nuts and biting into meat, while ape bite force is well adapted for hours of chewing tough leaves and bamboo.

The results of this study are very surprising and serve as just another reminder as to how impressive the human jaw is. The health of your jaw has a major impact on the health of your mouth and body, so it’s important to address any changes or discomfort immediately. If you experience any jaw pain, call Comfort Dental Spa, located in Farmington Hills, at (248) 474-6434 to reserve an appointment.