Morphometric growth relationships of the immature human mandible and tongue

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The masticatory apparatus is a highly adaptive musculoskeletal complex comprising several relatively independent structural components, which assist in functions including feeding and breathing. We hypothesized that the tongue is elemental in the maintenance of normal ontogeny of the mandible and in its post-natal growth and development, and tested this using a morphometric approach. We assessed tongue and mandibular measurements in 174 (97 male) human cadavers. Landmark lingual and mandibular data were gathered individuals aged between 20 gestational weeks and 3 yr postnatal. In this analysis, geometric morphometrics assisted in visualizing the morphometrical growth changes in the mandible and tongue. A linear correlation in conjunction with principal component analysis further visualized the growth relationship between these structures. We found that the growth of the tongue and mandible were intrinsically linked in size and shape between 20 gestational weeks and 24 months postnatal. However, the mandible continued to change in shape and size into the 3rd yr of life, whereas the tongue only increased in size over this same period of time. These findings provide valuable insights into the allometric growth relationship between these structures, potentially assisting the clinician in predicting the behaviour of these structures in the assessment of malocclusions.

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