An assessment of early mandibular growth

E. F. Hutchinson*, E. N. L'Abbé, A. C. Oettlé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Quantification of skeletal data has been shown to be an effective and reliable method of demonstrating variation in human growth as well as for monitoring and interpreting growth. In South Africa as well as internationally, few researchers have assessed mandibular growth in late fetal period and early childhood and therefore standards for growth and age determination in these groups are limited. The purpose of this study was to evaluate growth in the mandible from the period of 31 gestational weeks to 36 months postnatal. A total of 74 mandibles were used. Dried mandibles were sourced from the Raymond A. Dart Collection (University of Witwatersrand), and cadaveric remains were obtained from the Universities of Pretoria and the Witwatersrand. The sample was divided into four groups; 31-40 gestational weeks (group 1), 0-11 months (group 2), 12-24 months (group 3), and 25-36 months (group 4). Twenty-one osteological landmarks were digitized using a MicroScribe G2. Ten standard measurements were created and included: the maximum length of mandible, mandibular body length and width, mandibular notch width and depth, mental foramen to inferior border of mandible, mandibular basilar widths bigonial and biantegonial, bigonial width of mental foramen and mental angle. Data were analyzed using PAST statistical software and Morphologika2 v2.5. Statistically significant differences were noted in the linear measurements for all group comparisons except between groups 3 and 4. The mandible morphologically changed from a round, smooth contour anteriorly to adopt a more sharp and narrow adult shape. A progressive increase in the depth and definition of the mandibular arch was also noted. In conclusion, the mandible initially grows to accommodate the developing tongue (up to 11 months), progressive dental eruption and mastication from 12 to 36 months. Mastication is associated with muscle mass development; this would necessitate an increase in the dimensions of the mandibular notch and associated muscle attachment sites. These findings might be valuable in the estimation of age in unidentified individuals and to monitor prenatal growth of the mandible for the early diagnosis of conditions associated with stunted mandibular growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233.e1-233.e6
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal
  • Forensic Anthropology Population Data
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Growth
  • Mandible
  • Neonatal


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