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03.01.2019 | Original Article Open Access

Dental malocclusions are not just about small and weak bones: assessing the morphology of the mandible with cross-section analysis and geometric morphometrics

Clinical Oral Investigations
Viviana Toro-Ibacache, Francisco Ugarte, Cristina Morales, Andrea Eyquem, José Aguilera, Williams Astudillo
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00784-018-2766-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Dental malocclusions in modern populations would be the result of small and weak jaws developing under low masticatory loads. We assess the validity of this by characterising the external and internal morphology of mandibles affected by class II and III malocclusions and comparing them with those from individuals with different masticatory load patterns.

Materials and methods

CTs from up to 118 individuals exerting intensive, medium and low masticatory loads with harmonic occlusion, and from class II and III individuals, were used to compare their external shape using geometric morphometrics, as well as their internal amount and distribution of cortical bone.


The low-load groups (harmonic, class II and III occlusion) are externally more gracile than the intense and medium load groups. But more relevant in shape variation is a marked allometric pattern, which differentiates class II (small) and III (large) mandibles. Despite gracility, the relative amount of cortical bone in the low-load groups is larger than in the remaining groups.


There is no evidence that the modern mandible, including class II and III individuals, is intrinsically small and weak. Instead, there is a rather large degree of morphological variation, which could be linked to a lack of constraints derived from low masticatory loads. Thus, the effect of other factors such as genetics, but also basal metabolism, should be looked in more depth.

Clinical relevance

Dental malocclusions are a common disorder whose aetiology has not been unravelled, and several to be considered in the prevention and therapy of malocclusion.

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