Introduction: Palatal rugae patterns are one of the most dependable methods for human identification when valuable dental or other soft tissue information lack.
Method: The cross-sectional study included 120 Malaysian subjects comprising of 60 males and 60 females of Chinese, Malay and Indian groups of dentulous and edentulous state. Rugae were marked on the maxillary cast using lead pencil and were evaluated for the number, length and shape over the cast by the examiner. The collected data was sorted, tabulated and subjected to statistical analysis. The data was expressed in mean and standard deviation for number and length. A descriptive analysis was performed to assess the frequency of rugae pattern.
Results: The total number of rugae and the number of secondary rugae was higher in dentulous population. In Chinese population had the total number as well as primary rugae were more. Males had more total number of rugae whereas the secondary rugae number was more for females. The mean lengths of primary rugae for edentulous subjects were higher. Indian population had the longest mean length of primary rugae. The secondary rugae were longer for Malay population. Males had longer primary rugae whereas females had longer secondary rugae. The present study found that the incidence of wavy, divergence and convergence were more among males while straight, curved and circular were more among females than males.
Conclusions: Variations in number, length and shape of palatal rugae can be used as special characteristics that can distinguish individuals of one race from another.
New knowledge added by this study: Rugae patterns and number vary among races. Presence/absence of dentition does have an effect on the rugae configuration
Implications for clinical practice or policy: Rugae patterns may play role in forensics in sex identification and give a clue on race determination.
Keywords: Forensic Odontology, Palatal Rugae, Plica Palatinae, Rugoscopy, Rugae patterns.