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Abstract

Projection microradiography was used to determine the density and orientation of the force transmitting structures, i.e., trabeculae and bone lying between approximately parallel vascular canals, within the bones of cat skulls. The organisation in the skulls was confirmed statistically for a total of ten cats. The results of the observations showed that within specific areas of the skull a high degree of structural orientation and an increased density of osseous structures was present. The distribution of these characters corresponded in contiguous bones such that a continuum of structural organisation was established between the alveolar region and the site of attachment of the temporalis and masseter muscles and the glenoid region.

The patterns of force transmission during jaw closure were determined when a resistance was placed initially between the canines and then the carnassials. An analysis was first carried out on dry skulls using colophonium resin to determine the direction of the force distribution. The nature and the approximate magnitude of the forces were ascertained by replacing the resin with strain gauges. The basic similarities in the strain patterns recorded from the dry skulls and those from the ten anaesthetised cats in which strain gauges had been intra-vitally implanted, substantiated the recordings made on the dry skulls. Combination of the results from the three sets of experiments defined the patterns of force distribution in the cat skull during the closure of the mandible against a resistance. The results showed that: (1) the combined action of the temporalis and masseter muscles tended to reduce the overall strain in the skull bones, and that the deformations produced by the action of the masseter were greater than that exerted by the temporalis muscles; (2) during biting, whether the resistance was placed between the canines or carnassials, compressive forces predominated in the facial bones; (3) small movements observed between facial bones indicated the presence of a flexible component within the skull, thus allowing large forces to be exerted during biting without overstressing the facial bones; (4) the glenoid fossa is part of a force bearing joint; (5) forces generated during biting were resisted within the skull by forces of an opposite nature generated within the system, the incompressible nature of bone and by the effect of the soft tissues; (6) the nature and the magnitude of the strain altered when a resistance was placed at the canines and then at the carnassials; however, the pattern of force distribution within the skull remained the same; (7) there was a direct correspondence between the detailed structural organisation of the bones and the patterns of force distribution. This conclusion would appear to apply in general to mammalian skulls. The study also emphasises the importance, neglected hitherto, of carrying out a variety of experiments to determine the patterns of force distribution in bones.

The Trajectorial Theory of bone organisation is discussed and, on the basis of the results obtained, a modified theory is proposed. This states that: the structural continuum is common to the compact and cancellous bone and comprises bony bars which are aligned in the optimum direction for the transmission of force to a region in the bone or bones where it is effectively resisted.