The effect of ethnicity and age on palatal size and shape: a study in a northern Chilean healthy population.

V. F. Ferrario, C. Sforza, A. Colombo, G. M. Tartaglia, R. Carvajal, H. Palomino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Race and ethnicity influence the form of the human craniofacial complex in varying ways. The aim of the present investigation was to quantify the effects of ethnicity (mestizos, Aymara, non-Aymara), age (adolescents and adults), and sex on the form (size and shape) of the hard palate in normal Native American individuals. From the dental casts of 51 individuals with a complete permanent dentition, the x, y, and z coordinates of several standardized palatal landmarks were obtained with a computerized 3-dimensional digitizer. Palatal landmarks were used to derive a mathematical equation for palatal shape in the frontal and sagittal planes. Palatal width and length, frontal and sagittal heights, sagittal slope, and deviation of the raphe from the midline were also calculated. In the Aymara subjects, there was no effect of sex on palatal size, but there was an effect on palatal shape independent of size, especially with respect to male growth. Indeed, female palates apparently did not change their shape between adolescence and adulthood, while male palates increased their posterior "height." Overall, the 3 ethnic groups appeared to possess similar palatal size, with small significant differences. In the adult individuals, ethnicity did not seem to influence palatal shape. In contrast, adolescent males showed differences: non-Aymara subjects had the "highest" palatal shape, Aymara the "lowest," and mestizos an intermediate position. In conclusion, ethnicity does not seem to be a factor of major variability of human hard palate morphology, at least in the present 3 northern Chilean groups, as already found for dental arch shape. Age probably has a larger effect, particularly in the posterior part of the palate, where the eruption of the second and third molars between adolescence and young adulthood may play a role. A further development of the present investigation may involve larger samples of individuals from different ethnic groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalThe International journal of adult orthodontics and orthognathic surgery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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