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West Afr J Med. 2005 Jul-Sep;24(3):184-9.

The position and dimensions of the mental foramen in adult Malawian mandibles.

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Departament of Anatomy College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi.



The mental foramen is found on the anterolateral aspect of the mandible and transmits the mental nerve and vessels. The identification and actual location of this foramen is very important in clinical dentistry as well as in the microscopic and macroscopic evaluation of the morphology and maturity of the human mandible.


We determined the position and dimensions of this foramen from seventy adult indigenous Malawian mandibles of both sexes. The shape, number and orientation of the mental foramen were determined by visual examination and its transverse and vertical diameters measured using a digital venier caliper.


In the majority of cases, the mental foramen was oval in shape, oriented posterosuperiorly, and bilaterally symmetrical. The modal position of the foramen with respect to the mandibular teeth was inferior to the second premolar tooth. Its vertical position was slightly below the midpoint of the distance between the lower border of the mandible and the alveolar margin.


The shape and orientation of the mental foramen shown in our study correspond to what have been documented in most previous studies. However, variations do exist in the modal position of this foramen in different population groups. We therefore stress the importance of palpation of the foramen during administration of local anaesthesia and in the interpretation of radiographs prior to surgery.

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