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A reflection on radiographic cephalometry: the evaluation of sagittal discrepancy

A reflection on radiographic cephalometry: the evaluation of sagittal discrepancy

Journal of Orthodontics 41(3): 208-217

A critical review is presented of the basic properties and applications of cephalometry as a clinical tool with a focus on the evaluation of sagittal discrepancy. Diagnostic cephalometric assessments are subjective and not based on evidence. To assess individual skeletal and/or facial soft tissue form subjectively, selected norms are used. Norms have been developed for various ethnical groups to improve clinical applicability, but subjectivity remains. That subjectivity precludes application of a modern review system, making the present review a personal account. The cephalometric evaluation of sagittal discrepancy finds its historic origin in the Angle classification. Recent publications try to improve accuracy in classifying sagittal discrepancy. It remains unclear in what sense such efforts influence treatment decisions and/or treatment effect. Almost all selected landmarks are located on or dependent upon periosteal/endosteal bone image contours. Their homology is based on circumstantial reasoning and stability over time, which is implicitly assumed. However, implant growth studies and histological investigations show most landmarks to be unstable, as they are involved in displacement and bone remodelling. These landmarks are therefore heterologous when used for individual evaluation of change over time. Notwithstanding the above-indicated limitations, diagnostic cephalometric assessments are clinically useful and help to develop perceptions of balance and harmony and communication between colleagues and patients. There is no evidence-based method to prefer one particular diagnostic method. Landmark location accuracy and geometric issues do not play a decisive role. The subjective characteristic of diagnostic evaluations limits their power to size/shape comparisons. Structural superimposition is the valid biologically evidence-based method to provide advanced insight in individual growth and/or treatment changes and their variations.

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Accession: 051236720

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PMID: 24521748

DOI: 10.1179/1465313313y.0000000085

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