Your body constantly changes. In fact, most of the body that’s reading this blog post is not the one that you were born with, it’s long since been replaced by new cells. This morning we’ll focus on how researchers at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) recently discovered that eating foods that require more force to chew makes your jaw stronger and how that intersects with TMJ problems.
Your Body is Constantly Changing
Your blood cells last about 120 days, so you replace your entire blood volume 3 times a year. The cells that make up the inside of your intestine get replaced every 5 days, while the deep cells in the intestine (not the lining) last about 16 years. This means that your entire intestine by the time you’re in your 30s has already made two complete copies of itself! Your bones and muscles make a copy of themselves every 10-20 years, so those fingers you use to text are likely not the ones that your parents counted when you were born. In fact, the only original equipment reading this blog post is your brain.
Force can Modify Structure
Studies in the past have shown that exercise is vital when it comes to bone reconstruction, but the notion that chewing force has anything to do with the shape or structure of the jawbone has never been explored. The team in Japan found that as the mice they studied were subjected to higher levels of mechanical stress (food that was more difficult to chew), the bone cells in their jaw were activated through a growth factor called IGF-1 which helped bone tissue in the jaw to adapt.
Computer vs. Mouse
First, the researchers used a computer simulation to predict the expected outcome. The team then monitored the actual physical changes in the mice. The increased loading on the jawbone due to the increased force needed to chew hard food made the jaw bone get stronger. It also caused increased activity in the primary motor cortex of the brain, responsible for controlling the muscles of the jaw, making those get stronger as well.
Take special note: The portions of the jawbone and surrounding structures that possibly could have been harmed by the increased force required to tolerate the diet remained healthy.
TMJ Chewing Problems
When patients have TMJ problems (jaw joint arthritis or pain), they tend to avoid hard to chew foods. This likely takes their jaw structure in the other direction, causing it to weaken. Hence, getting the TMJ fixed is a key part of protecting their jaw health. For more on that, see my video below:
The upshot? Your body is constantly changing. In this case, your jaw bone can morph based on what you do or don’t eat. So if you have a TMJ problem, get it fixed asap!