The objectives of this study were to assess the relationship between the third molar and the mandibular canal, to identify the radiographic markers most prevalent in predicting connectivity between these structures, and to associate these signs and proximity with the position of the third molar according to Bell, Gregory’s and Winter’s classifications.
A retrospective cross-sectional study was conducted in the city of Sana’a on a sample of Yemeni patients in Ammar Dental Clinics who underwent panoramic radiography in the year 2019 until September 2020. The study consisted of panoramic radiographs of 597 patients with third molars with a total of 1017 third molars; the number of males was 216 (36.2%) and 381 females (63.8%). The panoramic radiographs were evaluated for proximity signs. Inclusion criteria were patients of both sexes who had at least a fully formed third molar of the mandible that was adjacent to the second molar. The radiographs were excluded if evidence of cystic, neoplastic, or extensive caries processes was detected. Seven radiological signs were used to determine if there was contact between the third molar and the mandibular canal. Results: A proximity to the mandibular canal was verified for 620 (61%) of 1017 third molars. The most frequent radiographic signs of proximity were darkened roots (315 teeth [31%]) and discontinuity of the mandibular canal (267 teeth [26.3%]). Third molar/mandibular canal proximity was found significantly more frequently in female patients and in patients aged 24 years and younger (P < 0.001). The tooth positions most frequently associated with proximity between the third molar and the mandibular canal were position C (highest point of the third molar located at or below the cervical margin of the second molar) and the mesioangular position (long axis of the third molar angled mesially toward the second molar). Conclusions: The frequency of third molar/ mandibular canal proximity was greater in female patients and patients aged 24 years or younger. The most frequently observed signs of proximity were darkening of the roots and discontinuity of the mandibular canal. The tooth positions most frequently associated with proximity of the third molar to the mandibular canal were position C and the mesioangular position.
Keywords: mandibular nerves, panoramic radiographs, third molar, signs of proximity