Whilst the periodontal ligament (PDL) acts as an attachment tissue between bone and tooth, hypotheses regarding the role of the PDL as a hydrodynamic damping mechanism during intraoral food processing have highlighted its potential importance in finite element (FE) analysis. Although experimental and constitutive models have correlated the mechanical function of the PDL tissue with its anisotropic, heterogeneous, viscoelastic and non-linear elastic nature, in many FE simulations the PDL is either present or absent, and when present is variably modelled. In addition, the small space the PDL occupies and the inability to visualize the PDL tissue using μCT scans poses issues during FE model construction and so protocols for the PDL thickness also vary. In this paper we initially test and validate the sensitivity of an FE model of a macaque mandible to variations in the Young’s modulus and the thickness of the PDL tissue. We then tested the validity of the FE models by carrying out experimental strain measurements on the same mandible in the laboratory using laser speckle interferometry. These strain measurements matched the FE predictions very closely, providing confidence that material properties and PDL thickness were suitably defined. The FE strain results across the mandible are generally insensitive to the absence and variably modelled PDL tissue. Differences are only found in the alveolar region adjacent to the socket of the loaded tooth. The results indicate that the effect of the PDL on strain distribution and/or absorption is restricted locally to the alveolar bone surrounding the teeth and does not affect other regions of the mandible.