Stephen Wroe has made a living studying the skulls of the world’s most feared warriors. Strength, durability.
And biting power of the saber-toothed cat, the great white shark, and the Komodo dragon have all been investigated by his team at the University of New South Wales.
Skull analysis is Stephen Wroe’s specialty; he’s worked with some of the world’s deadliest peoples in his time.
Researchers in his lab at the University of New South Wales have analysed great white shark bite force, Komodo dragon venom, and saber-toothed cat strength.
He’s now focused on us, a prey whose cranium isn’t quite as formidable but still has its surprises in store.
The Mighty Jaws of Man
In order to exert a force equivalent to an aten-pound bite, the human jaw muscles must contract by forty pounds.
This is due to the fact that the jaws are designed to function like a pair of tongs, with the power being provided near the joint and the work being done at the other end of the jaw levers.
If a mechanical engineer had created the human body, he would have probably designed the jaws like a nut cracker.
With the muscles located at the ends of the jaw levers and the teeth located between these ends and the joint or fulcrum, allowing for a powerful bite to be obtained with minimal muscular effort.
However, in human and animal physiology, mechanical advantage is somewhat unimportant compared to other more general concerns.
This is why it’s necessary for almost all of the body’s major muscles to be far stronger than if they were to operate directly upon the work.
The muscles that aid in chewing almost completely overlie the third molars, allowing for a particularly direct transfer of force.
A Surprising Fact Brought Out By Use of Phago Dynamometer
The use of the phago dynamometer revealed an unexpected finding: the hardness of food is not a reliable predictor of its hazard to the teeth.
In comparison to gum drops, which are typically squished out of shape at 20-30 pounds, hard sweets provide significantly less risk to the teeth.
Sometimes, even with a force of 250 pounds, a gum drop that became stuck between the cusps of the teeth wouldn’t go away.
This was especially true of licorice sticks. The most surprising finding, though, was the possibility that even bread could cause a cusp to shatter.
There is a large pressure difference between the front and rear teeth, with the molars taking the brunt of the work.
It’s interesting to note that our teeth’s strength determines the maximum force we may apply when biting down.
Naturally, if we respond to stress by clenching and grinding our teeth, we set ourselves up for tension headaches and jaw pain (TMJ dysfunction).