Normal growth and development of the lips: A 3-dimensional study from 6 years to adulthood using a geometric model

Virgilio F. Ferrario, Chiarella Sforza, Johannes H. Schmitz, Veronica Ciusa, Anna Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A 3-dimensional computerised system with landmark representation of the soft-tissue facial surface allows noninvasive and fast quantitative study of facial growth. The aims of the present investigation were (1) to provide reference data for selected dimensions of lips (linear distances and ratios, vermilion area, volume); (2) to quantify the relevant growth changes; and (3) to evaluate sex differences in growth patterns. The 3-dimensional coordinates of 6 soft-tissue landmarks on the lips were obtained by an optoelectronic instrument in a mixed longitudinal and cross-sectional study (2023 examinations in 1348 healthy subjects between 6 y of age and young adulthood). From the landmarks, several linear distances (mouth width, total vermilion height, total lip height, upper lip height), the vermilion height-to-mouth width ratio, some areas (vermilion of the upper lip, vermilion of the lower lip, total vermilion) and volumes (upper lip volume, lower lip volume, total lip volume) were calculated and averaged for age and sex. Male values were compared with female values by means of Student's t test. Within each age group all lip dimensions (distances, areas, volumes) were significantly larger in boys than in girls (P <0.05), with some exceptions in the first age groups and coinciding with the earlier female growth spurt, whereas the vermilion height-to-mouth width ratio did not show a corresponding sexual dimorphism. Linear distances in girls had almost reached adult dimensions in the 13-14 y age group, while in boys a large increase was still to occur. The attainment of adult dimensions was faster in the upper than in the lower lip, especially in girls. The method used in the present investigation allowed the noninvasive evaluation of a large sample of nonpatient subjects, leading to the definition of 3-dimensional normative data. Data collected in the present study could represent a data base for the quantitative description of human lip morphology from childhood to young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


  • Anthropometry
  • Face
  • Lips
  • Optoelectronic systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anatomy


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