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Palatal Rugae Morphology in an Adult Mediterranean Population

Maria Elias Saadeh, Joseph Ghafari, Ramzi Haddad, Fouad Ayoub


Background. The use of the palatal rugae in forensic odontology is based on their unique and individual characteristics. Few studies have assessed the palatal rugae in Mediterranean populations and none in the Lebanese population. 

Objective. Assess the shape and other morphological features of the palatal rugae in a Lebanese adult population, and compare them with reported similar features in other populations.

Material and Methods: Rugae characteristics were assessed on the maxillary dental casts of 217 non-growing subjects (95 males, 122 females, age 25.5 ± 7.6 years) according to guidelines established by Thomas and Kotze (1983) and Lysell (1955). The overall number of rugae and numbers of primary rugae (>5mm in length), secondary rugae (3-5mm) and fragmentary rugae (2-3mm) on either side were recorded. Rugae were classified according to shape, direction and presence of unification. Z-tests were used to compare the proportions between right and left sides and between genders. The mean numbers of rugae in each category were compared with independent samples t-tests between males and females; paired samples t-tests were employed to compare mean numbers of rugae in each category between right and left sides.

Results: The average number of rugae was 7.7 per individual, 3.81 on the right and 3.89 on the left. Curved, wavy and straight rugae were equally common (one third each). The spatial direction of most rugae (49.3%) was backward. Circular, non-specific and convergent rugae were rare (<2% each). Rugae numbers (total, primary, secondary, fragmentary) were symmetrical but shape, direction and the occurrence of convergence were asymmetrical (p < 0.05). None of the examined characteristics showed gender dimorphism.

Conclusions: The palatal rugae in the Lebanese population display shape distinct from other Mediterranean and non-Caucasian populations. Comparative studies in large samples are warranted.


Palatal rugae, morphology, Mediterranean


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