International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 132, Issue 5, pp 1437–1446 | Cite as

Estimating age and the probability of being at least 18 years of age using third molars: a comparison between Black and White individuals living in South Africa

  • André UysEmail author
  • H. Bernitz
  • S. Pretorius
  • M. Steyn
Original Article


Third molar development of 705 White and 563 Black South African individuals aged between 15 and 25 years was assessed from panoramic radiographs obtained from the School of Dentistry, University of Pretoria, South Africa. The maxillary and mandibular left third molars were scored according to a ten-stage scoring system. Ancestry and sex differences in dental maturity were assessed, and the likelihood of an individual being 18 years of age was determined for each developmental stage. Statistically significant differences were noted among ancestry groups for most developmental stages, with South African Black individuals consistently maturing earlier than the White individuals. Statistically significant differences were noted among sex groups for some of the stages, mostly those near the final stages of root development. The results indicate that male third molars completed their development faster than that of females. The likelihood of an individual being 18 years of age based on the third molar development stage for the maxilla and mandible on its own was also determined. Combined likelihood results, for the maxillary and mandibular left third molars for stage H, increased the likelihood of being 18 years to 95% for all the studied ancestry and sex groups.


Third molars South African Black and White individuals Root formation Dental maturation 



The researchers would like to acknowledge funding received from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. Any opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and therefore, the NRF does not accept any liability in regard thereto.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards laid down by the Declaration of Helsinki [35]. Approval for the study was granted by the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Health Sciences (Ethics reference number: 263/2015).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Oral Pathology and Oral Biology, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of PretoriaGautengSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Actuarial ScienceUniversity of PretoriaGautengSouth Africa
  3. 3.Human Variation and Identification Research Unit, School of Anatomical Sciences, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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