Indian Journal of Dental Research

: 2008  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 150--154

Stature estimation using odontometry and skull anthropometry

Shalini Kalia, Shwetha K Shetty, Karthikeya Patil, VG Mahima 
 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, J.S.S. Dental College and Hospital, Mysore, Karnataka - 570 015, India

Correspondence Address:
Karthikeya Patil
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, J.S.S. Dental College and Hospital, Mysore, Karnataka - 570 015


Objective: To investigate the possibility of estimating height from odontometry and anthropometric data of the skull for the positive identification of height in forensic investigations concerned with fragmentary human remains. Materials and Methods: The study was carried out on 100 Mysorean patients, 50 males, and 50 females. Measurements of mesiodistal widths of the six maxillary anterior teeth, circumference of the skull, and height were made directly on each patient. Anteroposterior diameter of the skull was obtained on the lateral cephalograph. The data collected were subjected to statistical methods. The known heights of the combined data, data for males, and females were regressed against the odontometric and anthropometric variables using linear regression analysis. Results: Significant sexual dimorphism was observed for the parameters studied ( P < 0.05). Highly significant correlation was found between height and other parameters when combined data and data for males were regressed. The equation relating height to the combined mesiodistal width of maxillary anterior teeth was derived as height = 982.421 + 13.65 x combined mesiodistal width of maxillary anterior teeth ( P < 0.0001). Similarly equations were obtained by regressing height to head circumference and skull diameter ( P < 0.0001 for both). The above findings may hence provide reliable method of estimation of height from skeletal remains in the forensic setup.

How to cite this article:
Kalia S, Shetty SK, Patil K, Mahima V G. Stature estimation using odontometry and skull anthropometry.Indian J Dent Res 2008;19:150-154

How to cite this URL:
Kalia S, Shetty SK, Patil K, Mahima V G. Stature estimation using odontometry and skull anthropometry. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2008 [cited 2019 Nov 17 ];19:150-154
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Full Text

Stature is the height of a person in the upright posture. [1] In the identification of unknown human remains, stature estimation is a preliminary investigation. [2],[3]

In cases where identification has to be performed based on skeletal remains, the most common stature estimates are derived from long bones. [2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] These are based upon the principle that the various long bones correlate positively with stature. [7],[9]

There are indices relating an odontometric parameter to a cranial one, often cited in the specialty of prosthodontia. [10] According to some other authors, there exists a relationship between the combined mesiodistal width of maxillary anterior teeth and the head circumference. [11]

Stature correlation to skull and jaw dimensions is frequently reported among various populations. [4],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17] One of the initial studies in this context was undertaken by Indian researchers. [14] The literature, however, is lacking in that the derivation of the height from an odontometric parameter has not been explored adequately. The studies correlating tooth dimensions with height as ratios or regression equations are sporadic. [10],[18] This is surprising as skull with or without teeth may be the only remains of an individual.

With this background, we undertook this study to investigate the relationship of height of a person with the diameter and circumference of skull as well as with combined mesiodistal width of maxillary anterior teeth in a Mysorean population with the statistical aid of regression analysis of these variables. This was aimed to provide for positive identification by height in forensic investigations concerned with fragmentary human remains.

 Materials and Methods

The representative Mysorean population sample of 50 males and 50 females was recruited from those reporting to our department as outpatients or persons accompanying them and the hospital staff. In this study, the subjects were invited to participate if they met the following criteria:

Age 20-40 years.Mysorean ancestors at least from two previous generations.Complete set of fully erupted, periodontally healthy, noncarious, nonworn, intact, and satisfactorily aligned maxillary anterior teeth.No history or clinical evidence of cleft palate or crown restorations orthodontic treatment orthognathic surgery, trauma, or surgery of the skull.No history or clinical features suggestive of endocrinal disorders, metabolic disorders, developmental disorders, and history of prolonged illness.Unrelated subjects.

After obtaining informed consent from the subject selected, measurements of mesiodistal crown width of the six maxillary anterior teeth (later added to derive combined mesiodistal widths), fronto-occipital head circumference, height, and diameter of the skull on a lateral cephalograph were performed.

The techniques for these measurements are simple and universally standard to perform. [6],[11],[12],[19],[20],[21],[22]

Following a practice session with the instruments and standardizing the landmarks as well as the equipments, all measurements were performed by two of the investigators, with one recording the measurements and the other performing radiography. This was done to assure consistency in surface measurements, in accordance with the recommendations cited by Farkas. [23] Since most study subjects were outpatients, repeat measurements at various time intervals were impractical. However, landmarks used were first confirmed by other two investigators who were also present during the measurements for each subject. All measurements were repeated thrice and averaged reading was used. Skull diameter for each subject was measured on the lateral cephalographs made on 8′ by 10′ radiographic films (Rotograph 230 eur Panoramic machine) with exposure parameters adjusted for individual patient. Only radiographs with good diagnostic quality were included for the study.

The greatest mesiodistal crown widths of the maxillary anterior permanent six teeth were measured between the anatomic contact points of each tooth on either side of the jaw, using dividers with fixing device and pointed tines to access the interproximal areas, with the instrument held parallel to the occlusal plane. The distance between divider tines was read off on a stainless steel scale and recorded to the nearest millimeter. Although shown to produce systematic errors, use of dividers is an accepted method. [23] We tried to minimize this error by repeating the measurements thrice and averaging the values obtained.

Maximal fronto-occipital circumference was measured by placing a nonstretchable plastic tape (calibrated in millimeters) just on the occipital prominence and the supraorbital ridges, while viewing the subject laterally also to ensure proper placement of the tape. In cases of some hairstyles in males, we drew the tape tightly and compressed the hair as much as possible. In cases of females, we asked the subjects to lift their hair in occipital area and the tape was placed against the skin and not over the lumps of hair. This method was in accordance with the one used by Everklioglu et al . [19]

Height was measured as vertical distance from the vertex to the floor using a standard anthropometer. Measurement was taken by making the subject stand erect on a horizontal resisting plane barefooted. Anthropometer was placed in straight vertical position behind the subject with head oriented in Frankfürt plane and shoulder blocks and buttocks touching the vertical limb of the instrument. The movable rod of the anthropometer was brought in contact with vertex in the midsagittal plane. [6]

The skull diameter was derived as the linear distance between the glabella and the external occipital protuberance. This distance was measured on the lateral skull cephalograph by using a stainless steel scale and recorded to the nearest millimeter. Corrected skull diameter was then calculated by employing the magnification factor (1.068 or 9.36%), derived by using the geometric principle of similar triangles which is applicable for posteroanterior as well as lateral cephalometric examinations. [24],[25],[26],[27]

A commercially available statistical software programme (Epi Info [TM] 3.3.2) was used to analyze the data. Comparisons were made between the measurements recorded with respect to the gender using statistical mean, standard deviation, range, and Student's t-test.

Combined data, male, and female data were analyzed separately for linear regression of height to the parameters recorded. The linear regression equation was derived as y = mx + c, where y-axis was the height recorded corresponding to the odontometric or cranial measurements on the x-axis. The correlation was indicated by the slope of the trend line.

Height was first regressed separately against the combined mesiodistal width, the head circumference, and diameter of the skull. Next, two of the measurements were added per patient and regressed to the height. That is, height was regressed against addition of combined mesiodistal width and head circumference, addition of combined mesiodistal width and skull diameter, and addition of skull diameter and head circumference. Finally, all the measurements were added for each subject and plotted against their heights to derive a correlation.


The descriptive statistics for the four measurements recorded in the sample are shown in [Table 1]. Most measurements recorded exhibited statistically significant sexual dimorphism ( P 0.001). The mean and standard deviation of circumference of the head and combined mesiodistal width of maxillary anterior teeth as well as ratio of the two parameters [Table 2] were comparable to those found in a previous study. [11]

Ratio calculated among the parameters, such as height to combined mesiodistal widths of maxillary anterior teeth, height to skull diameter, and so on, were subjected to similar analysis for males and female subjects.

When combined mesiodistal width of maxillary teeth was plotted against height, we found a statistically significant correlation between the two, although the coefficient was small. A higher correlation was observed when head circumference was regressed to the height for the combined data and data for males. In comparison a smaller correlation was found for the skull diameter and the height.

When two measurements were added and correlated to the height, the gradient of the trend line improved indicating elevated correlation. Addition of odontometry to the remaining two parameters only marginally increased correlation with height. Although a high correlation, only second in the rank, was seen when height was regressed against addition of combined mesiodistal width and head circumference.

Highly significant correlation, the highest observed in the group was seen when height was regressed against addition of all the three measurements. Sufficient to say, this category provided the most reliable stature estimates.

The regression equations were derived as listed in [Table 3]. Barring results from the female parameters (which had no correlation with height), most male and combined data parameters had a positive correlation with the stature. Even so, the correlations of only combined data analysis were statistically significant, with coefficient ranging from 0.38 to 0.56.


Various methods are used to establish the identity of unknown human remains. The reliability of each method varies. [2] Estimation of stature, as part of identification process has a long history in physical anthropology. A drawback to these techniques is limited applicability to fragmentary remains. [9] When the body has been mutilated, it is common to have the extremities or head amputated from the trunk. An estimate must then be made based on the known relationship of the remains to stature. [3] The introduction of regression formulae developed in the modern populations has enhanced the accuracy of stature estimation.

Osteometry seems to be the preferred technique because it is more effective in determining sex and race to an extent. [3] The method of using teeth and skull measurements has several advantages as the anatomical landmarks are standard, well defined, and easy to locate.

The estimation of living stature from long bones is based upon the principle that the long bones correlate positively with the stature. Since this is true, parts of each bone should also be related to stature even though they may not correlate as highly. [7]

The above principle was found to hold good in the present study. We found highest correlation when individual measurements of combined data were plotted against height. Also, adding the odontometric and craniometric parameters elevated the correlation with the stature estimation. This improvement in correlation was statistically significant only when combined data were analyzed. The above findings and the inconclusive results obtained from male and female data may be attributed to an extent to the small sample and nonhomogenous sampling.

The results of regression of odontometric measurements to stature could have been compared to a previous study which was done in a Norweign population. Methods and results are unknown as this article was unavailable for analysis even after a thorough search among various resources. [18] In our study, odontometry alone was found to be unreliable in stature estimation.

As for the regression of the head and skull measurements, a similar study in 1998 was conducted directly on cadavers. [4] This is in contrast with our study as head circumference included the soft tissue covering of the skull of living subjects and skull diameter was derived from the radiographs. These investigators found largest correlation of skull measurements and stature with combined data, a consistently lesser correlation (but statistically significant) for all parameters (except skull diameter) tested for females and sum of skull diameter and circumference most reliable in stature estimation, the three findings that were consistent with our study. The investigators reported coefficient correlation ranging from 0.003 to 0.53. Although standard errors of estimate are comparatively lesser, our study had statistically insignificant correlation for both males and females when tested separately for all parameters.

Another study on cadavers included a wide age range and reported a statistically insignificant correlation of maximum anteroposterior length and circumference of skull to stature for both males and females. Combined data were not used by these investigators. [14] A much larger sample consisting of only males was tested employing similar landmarks and better results were reported with coefficient correlation ranging from 0.38 to 0.60, close to the one we found in the present study. [15]

The regression of skull diameter to the height was found to have similar results as obtained in another study, using lateral skull cephalograph, with comparable standard errors of estimation. Females in this study showed marginally greater mean difference between the average actual and average estimated heights as compared to the males. [12],[13]

There may be more studies exploring the skull and stature relationship. Disparity in the methods and landmarks for skull measurements demands their exclusion for comparison. [16],[17]

Further research is warranted with larger samples in the direction of definite improvement in the accuracy of stature estimation from odontometry. We recommend studies on cadavers and skulls without soft tissue covering as well as assessment of the effect of aging on the regression coefficients in stature estimation.


Our study was carried out to investigate the possibility of estimating the height of a person from teeth and skull by application of regression analysis. Tooth dimensions alone may not be useful in stature estimation, but definitely enhance the reliability when combined with skull measurements. Despite the pessimism prevailing use of male and female data individually, for reasons which have been discussed above, we propose that skull with teeth may provide accurate clues to stature from an individual's fragmentary remains.

This is not an exhaustive survey, but has provided a statistically valid technique. It is preferable that the results may be viewed more as indicative of the feasibility of the technique as in providing formulae applicable in the forensic science work.


The authors are grateful to Dr. B. Nandlal, Principal, J.S.S. Dental College and Hospital, Mysore, Karnataka, India for supporting the study and Dr. Prabhakar, J.S.S. Medical College and Hospital, Mysore, Karnataka, India for helping with the statistics.


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