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Standard Dimensions and Definitions for the Human Palate

Christopher A. Maier, Donovan M. Adams


The palate can be an informative region of the skeleton, especially with regard to the estimation of sex and ancestry. However, few standard definitions exist for both the region and the measurements that can be derived from it. To be able to compare results across studies, researchers must be confident that the data compared are complementary. This article seeks to establish both a standard definition for the dental arcade-palate region and to clarify terminology surrounding the axes of measurement. Existing literature in anthropology as well as clinical applications are examined to determine how the term “palate” is being used and what measurements are used to describe it. Across disciplines, especially between anthropological and clinical literature, the term “palate” refers to different regions. Therefore, the authors suggest differentiating between “hard palate,” “dental arcade,” and “palatal vault” to ensure that researchers are discussing comparable regions. Furthermore, there is a conflict in the literature with regard to the terms applied to specific axes of measurement. The medial-lateral axis has been referred to as both “width” and “breadth”; the anterior-posterior axis has been termed both “length” and “depth”; and the superior-inferior axis has been called both “depth” and “height.” Additionally, the term “depth” has been used for measurements between teeth, meant to capture the curvature of the region. The conflicted state of the literature will lead, and likely has led, to misunderstandings in comparing studies and to misinterpretations of results. Standard definitions and practices are needed to ensure confidence in future comparative studies.


forensic anthropology, palate, standardization

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