Original Article

International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 129, Issue 1, pp 165-169

First online:

Classifying stages of third molar development: crown length as a predictor for the mature root length

  • Salem AltalieAffiliated withForensic Odontology, Department of Oral Health Sciences, KU Leuven and Dentistry, University Hospitals Leuven
  • , Patrick ThevissenAffiliated withForensic Odontology, Department of Oral Health Sciences, KU Leuven and Dentistry, University Hospitals Leuven Email author 
  • , Guy WillemsAffiliated withForensic Odontology, Department of Oral Health Sciences, KU Leuven and Dentistry, University Hospitals Leuven

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Abstract

Multiple tooth development staging techniques were reported based on arbitrarily set borderlines between succeeding stages. Anatomic tooth features or predictions of future tooth part dimensions were described to identify the thresholds between the established stages. The need to predict mature tooth dimensions, while the tooth considered is still in development, is a drawback to use this staging technique for dental age estimations. Using the fully mature crown length as a predictor for the future root length could provide a tool for undisputable staging. The aim of this study was first to measure the crown and root length of fully mature third molars and second to investigate whether the crown length could be used as a predictor of the root length, in order to classify the observed root length as a proportion of the future mature root. The crown and root lengths of all present third molars were digitally measured on dental panoramic radiographs of 1,000 subjects. The included subjects were equally distributed in gender, and their age ranged between 22 and 40 years. Two occlusal borders, the cement enamel junction and the root apices, were defined as landmarks for standardized measurements. Regression models with root length as response and crown length as predictor were established and revealed low R 2 and high RMSE values. Due to the small explained variance by the prediction models and the high variation in prediction errors, the observed crown length cannot be used to predict the final root length of a developing third molar.

Keywords

Forensic science Forensic odontology Dental age estimation Third molar development stages Crown and root length