Panoramic radiographic predictors of mandibular third molar eruption

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Third molar (M3) eruption can be problematic. According to some orthodontic surgeons, the teeth are capable of aggravating the average crowding level in the dental arch. The question is whether it might be possible to give a prognosis for ultimate M3 position in the arch and make an early decision to extract or retain them. The purpose of the study was to determine which measurements made on panoramic tomograms might facilitate prognosis for M3 position in the dental arch over the years.

Study design

The investigation involved 64 patients who had been enrolled to the study group 10 years earlier, ie, in 1993, when an analysis had been carried out regarding M3 effect on dental arch crowding. At that time panoramic tomograms had been taken, and dental casts made. The procedures were repeated in 2003. The following measurements were taken at baseline (1993) and at the end of the study (2003): (1)/ the retromolar space to lower third molar crown width, (2) third molar angulation to the base of the mandible, and (3) third molar to second molar inclination.


At some defined values of the Ganss ratio, and M3 inclination to mandibular base and second molar, it is possible to predict potential lower third molar alignment in the dental arch using a panoramic radiograph.

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