Third molar development in a London population of White British and Black British or other Black ethnicity.
Population differences in dental development between Black and White ethnic groups have been debated but not previously studied in the UK. Using inappropriate data for dental age estimation (DAE) could lead to erroneous results and injustice. Data were collected from dental panoramic radiographs of 5590 subjects aged 6-24 years in a teaching hospital archive. Demirjian stages were determined for left-sided teeth and third molars and data collected regarding hypodontia and third molar agenesis. Third molar development in self-assigned Black British, including other self-assigned Black ethnicity, was compared with that of self-assigned White British subjects. Data were compared for males and females in the two ethnic groups using T-tests for Demirjian Stages A-G of third molar development and Mann-Whitney tests for Stage H once a cut-off age at the maximum age for Stage G had been imposed. Third molar development occurred earlier in subjects of Black ancestry compared to those of White ancestry. While both ethnic groups showed large age ranges for every third molar stage, in female subjects these generally occurred at least 1.5 years earlier, and in males at least one year earlier. Hypodontia and third molar agenesis were more prevalent in White British, but the ethnic difference in third molar development persisted in subjects with complete dentitions. This is a large study that confirms ethnic differences in a London population, emphasises the difficulties of establishing the 18-year-old threshold using DAE, and confirms the risk of overestimating the age of individuals of Black ethnicity using White ethnic reference data.
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