Measuring anterior loop length of the inferior alveolar nerve to estimate safe zone in implant planning: A CBCT study in a Malaysian population

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Statement of problem.

The inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) frequently loops backward before exiting from the mental foramen and spreads several millimeters medially to the foramen. Implant placement in this area may damage the nerve if the anterior loop area is not carefully identified in a radiographic or computed tomography (CT) evaluation.


The purpose of this observational study was to measure the prevalence of the presence of the anterior loop and to estimate sex and ethnicity-related variations in anterior loop length in the Malaysian population.

Material and methods.

A total of 100 cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) files were selected from a pool of 810 ongoing or completed patients in 3 different ethnic groups: Malay (33), Indian (33), and Chinese (34). The DICOM data were imported into commercial software. The IAN was traced with software along with the anterior loop and part of the incisive nerve. The vertical length of the nerve was estimated from the canal to the opening of the mental foramen from the cross-sectional view and translated to the panoramic view. Measurement was made from this point to the most anterior point of the anterior loop by following the trajectory of the nerve and was repeated on the opposite side. A 2-way mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) test was carried out to evaluate the sex- and ethnicity-related variations (α=.05).


The anterior loop was present in 94% of the 100 participants. Overall anterior loop length (AnLL) ranged between 0.73 and 7.99 mm with a mean length of 3.69 ±1.75 mm on the left side and 3.85 ±1.73 mm on the right side. Among all participants, no statistically significant differences were found between the left and right sides of the mandible (P=.379). Overall, no significant main effect of ethnicity (P=.869) or sex (P=.576) was found on AnLL measurements. Also, with multiple comparisons, no significant effect was found between each pair of ethnic groups. Men in all 3 ethnic groups had greater AnLL than women.


The anterior loop was present in 94% of the 100 participants among the 3 major ethnic groups of Malaysia. Overall AnLL ranged between 0.73 and 7.99 mm and mean lengths of 3.69 ±1.75 mm on the left side and 3.85 ±1.73 mm on the right side, with no significant ethnicity- or sex-related variations.

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