The periodontal ligament (PDL) is a critical player in the maintenance of tooth health, acting as the primary stabilizer of tooth position. Recent studies have identified two unique regions within the PDL, the ‘dense collar’ region and the ‘furcation’ region, which exhibit distinct structural and compositional differences. However, specific functional differences between these regions have yet to be investigated. We adapted an AFM-based nanoscale rheology method to regionally assess mechanical properties and poroelasticity in the mouse PDL while minimizing the disruption of the 3-dimensional native boundary conditions, and then explored tissue mechanical function in four different regions within the dense collar as well as in the furcation region. We found significant differences between the collar and furcation regions, with the collar acting as a stabilizing ligamentous structure and the furcation acting as both a compressive cushion for vertical forces and a conduit for nutrient transport. While this finding supports our hypothesis, based on previous studies investigating structural and compositional differences, we also found surprising inhomogeneity within the collar region itself. This inhomogeneity supports previous findings of a tilting movement in the buccal direction of mandibular molar teeth and the structural adaptation to prevent lingual movement. Future work will aim to understand how different regions of the PDL change functionally during biological or mechanical perturbations, such as orthodontic tooth movement, development, or aging, with the ultimate goal of better understanding the mechanobiology of the PDL function in health and disease.
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