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Influence Of Age On Adaptability Of Human Mastication

Marie-Agnès Peyron, Olivier Blanc, James P. Lund, Alain Woda

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The objective of this work was to study the influence of age on the ability of subjects to adapt mastication to changes in the hardness of foods. The study was carried out on 67 volunteers aged from 25 to 75 yr (29 males, 38 females) who had complete healthy dentitions. Surface electromyograms of the left and right masseter and temporalis muscles were recorded simultaneously with jaw movements using an electromagnetic transducer. Each volunteer was asked to chew and swallow four visco-elastic model foods of different hardness, each presented three times in random order. The number of masticatory cycles, their frequency, and the sum of all electromyographic (EMG) activity in all four muscles were calculated for each masticatory sequence. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to assess the effects of hardness, age, and gender. Hardness was associated to an increase in the mean number of cycles and mean summed EMG activity per sequence. It also increased mean vertical amplitude. Mean vertical amplitude and mean summed EMG activity per sequence were higher in males. These adaptations were present at all ages. Age was associated with an increase of 0.3 cycles per sequence per year of life and with a progressive increase in mean summed EMG activity per sequence. Cycle and opening duration early in the sequence also fell with age. We concluded that although the number of cycles needed to chew a standard piece of food increases progressively with age, the capacity to adapt to changes in the hardness of food is maintained.