In a study of the rat mandibular joint (MJ), Simon [Acta anat. 97: 351–360 (1977)] suggested that reduction in condylar cartilage thickness noted in animals subjected to removal or trimming of incisors resulted from the lessening of joint reaction forces produced during incision. In order to explore this question further, the microanatomy of the MJ in 47-day-old rats whose incisors had been trimmed every other day was compared to that in control animals and in a third group fed a soft diet as a control for reduced joint reaction forces. Both the incisor-clipped and soft-diet groups exhibited reduced size and density of bony trabeculae underlying the condylar cartilage and diminished staining for alcian blue. The thickness of the prechondroblastic layer of the condylar cartilage was significantly (p ≦ 0.01) reduced relative to controls in both experimental groups on the superior aspect of the cartilage, but was reduced in the more posterior parts of the cartilage only in the incisor-clipped group. While not denying that joint reaction forces may affect MJ response, the reduced prohferative response noted in the posterior region of the condylar cartilage in incisor-clipped animals is perhaps best explained by a decrease in the frequency and extent of protrusion of the lower jaw due to a lack of incisal preparation of food items.

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