Fish deal with teeth grinding too?

By – Bad Breath Expert
Posted: October 31, 2014
SUMMARY: A fish called the French grunt grinds its teeth when in distress.

Sound travels much farther underwater, so if you've ever woken up by your spouse's teeth grinding, imagine how the French grunt feels.

Found in the western Atlantic Ocean, the French grunt is a fish that produces a jarring sound when in distress. Despite its name, that noise is not grunting at all - the fish grinds its teeth. In a new study, researchers said the calls are produced when the fish feels threatened. 

"Sound production is probably an adaptation of the food-processing mechanism in this species," lead author Frédéric Bertucci and colleagues from the Universities of Liège and Antwerp wrote.

To analyze the noise, Bertucci and his team examined high-speed X-ray movies of French grunt heads. The fish have what are known as pharyngeal jaws, a second set located in the throat. The results showed that these second jaws not only chew prey and aid in swallowing, but also produce the grinding sound. When the researchers took a closer look at the fish's teeth, they could see how dental enamel wore away after the fish ground its teeth from the upper jaw against those of the lower jaw. 

"Studies focusing on the possible role of pharyngeal jaws in sound production remain rare," the researchers wrote.

The research also discovered that the sound has a pitch of about 700 hertz, though their hearing sensitivity is strongest at 300 Hz. In other words, they don't tune into the distress calls of their own species, perhaps because the teeth grinding is a relatively new phenomenon in the species development.

Similar to how the French grunt grinds away in distress, teeth grinding in humans often occurs when an individual is going through stressful situations. Called bruxism€‹ in the medical world, teeth grinding during sleep may also be caused by an abnormal bite, or missing or crooked teeth. Because grinding often takes place during sleep, many people are unaware they do it. However, a dull headache or sore jaw is a surefire symptom of bruxism. It's also common for a loved one who hears the grinding at night to tell the individual of the noise.

Teeth grinding can cause damaged teeth, jaw muscle discomfort or temporomandibular joint pain. The good news? It can be prevented with the use of a mouth guard, which fits over the teeth to keep teeth from shifting against each other.

Now if only the French grunt had a mouth guard ....

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