A radiographic study estimating age of mandibular third molars by periodontal ligament visibility.
79 - 89
J Forensic Odontostomatol
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BACKGROUND: Visibility of the periodontal ligament of mandibular third molars (M3) has been suggested as a method to estimate age. AIM: To assess the accuracy of this method and compare the visibility of the periodontal ligament in the left M3 with the right M3. The sample was archived panoramic dental radiographs of 163 individuals (75 males, 88 females, age 16-53 years) with mature M3's. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Reliability was assessed using Kappa. Accuracy was assessed by subtracting chronological age from estimated age for males and females. Stages were cross-tabulated against age stages younger than and at least 18 and 21 years of age. Stages were compared in the left M3 and right M3. RESULTS: Analysis showed excellent intra-observer reliability. Mean difference between estimated and chronological ages was 7.21 years (SD 5.16) for left M3 and 7.69 (SD 6.08) for right M3 in males and 6.87 (SD 5.83) for left M3 and 8.61 (SD 6.58) for right M3 in females. Minimum ages of stages 0 to 2 were younger than previously reported, despite a small sample of individuals younger than 18. The left and right M3 stage differed in 46% of the 85 individuals with readings from both side and estimated age differed from -10.5 to 12.2 years between left and right. CONCLUSION: Accuracy of this method was between 6 and 8 years with an error of 5 to 6 years. The number of individuals with mature M3 apices younger than 18 years was small. The stage of visibility of the periodontal ligament differed between left and right in almost half of our sample with both teeth present. Our findings question the use of this method to estimate age or to discriminate between age younger and at least 18 years.