Third molar development: measurements versus scores as age predictor.

Archives of oral biology

PubMedID: 21550588

Thevissen PW, Fieuws S, Willems G. Third molar development: measurements versus scores as age predictor. Arch Oral Biol. 2011;56(10):1035-40.
Human third molar development is widely used to predict chronological age of sub adult individuals with unknown or doubted age. For these predictions, classically, the radiologically observed third molar growth and maturation is registered using a staging and related scoring technique. Measures of lengths and widths of the developing wisdom tooth and its adjacent second molar can be considered as an alternative registration. The aim of this study was to verify relations between mandibular third molar developmental stages or measurements of mandibular second molar and third molars and age. Age related performance of stages and measurements were compared to assess if measurements added information to age predictions from third molar formation stage. The sample was 340 orthopantomograms (170 females, 170 males) of individuals homogenously distributed in age between 7 and 24 years. Mandibular lower right, third and second molars, were staged following Gleiser and Hunt, length and width measurements were registered, and various ratios of these measurements were calculated. Univariable regression models with age as response and third molar stage, measurements and ratios of second and third molars as predictors, were considered. Multivariable regression models assessed if measurements or ratios added information to age prediction from third molar stage. Coefficients of determination (R(2)) and root mean squared errors (RMSE) obtained from all regression models were compared. The univariable regression model using stages as predictor yielded most accurate age predictions (males: R(2) 0.85, RMSE between 0.85 and 1.22 year; females: R(2) 0.77, RMSE between 1.19 and 2.11 year) compared to all models including measurements and ratios. The multivariable regression models indicated that measurements and ratios added no clinical relevant information to the age prediction from third molar stage. Ratios and measurements of second and third molars are less accurate age predictors than stages of developing third molars.