Regional structural characteristics of bovine periodontal ligament samples and their suitability for biomechanical tests
Mechanical testing of the periodontal ligament requires a practical experimental model. Bovine teeth are advantageous in terms of size and availability, but information is lacking as to the anatomy and histology of their periodontium. The aim of this study, therefore, was to characterize the anatomy and histology of the attachment apparatus in fully erupted bovine mandibular first molars. A total of 13 teeth were processed for the production of undecalcified ground sections and decalcified semi-thin sections, for NaOH maceration, and for polarized light microscopy. Histomorphometric measurements relevant to the mechanical behavior of the periodontal ligament included width, number, size and area fraction of blood vessels and fractal analysis of the two hard-soft tissue interfaces. The histological and histomorphometric analyses were performed at four different root depths and at six circumferential locations around the distal and mesial roots. The variety of techniques applied provided a comprehensive view of the tissue architecture of the bovine periodontal ligament. Marked regional variations were observed in width, surface geometry of the two bordering hard tissues (cementum and alveolar bone), structural organization of the principal periodontal ligament connective tissue fibers, size, number and numerical density of blood vessels in the periodontal ligament. No predictable pattern was observed, except for a statistically significant increase in the area fraction of blood vessels from apical to coronal. The periodontal ligament width was up to three times wider in bovine teeth than in human teeth. The fractal analyses were in agreement with the histological observations showing frequent signs of remodeling activity in the alveolar bone - a finding which may be related to the magnitude and direction of occlusal forces in ruminants. Although samples from the apical root portion are not suitable for biomechanical testing, all other levels in the buccal and lingual aspects of the mesial and distal roots may be considered. The bucco-mesial aspect of the distal root appears to be the most suitable location.