Automated description of the mandible shape by deep learning

Purpose The shape of the mandible has been analyzed in a variety of fields, whether to diagnose conditions like osteoporosis or osteomyelitis, in forensics, to estimate biological information such as age, gender, and race or in orthognathic surgery. Although the methods employed produce encouraging results, most rely on the dry bone analyses or complex imaging techniques that, ultimately, hamper sample collection and, as a consequence, the development of large-scale studies. Thus, we proposed an objective, repeatable, and fully automatic approach to provide a quantitative description of the mandible in orthopantomographies (OPGs). Methods We proposed the use of a deep convolutional neural network (CNN) to localize a set of landmarks of the mandible contour automatically from OPGs. Furthermore, we detailed four different descriptors for the mandible shape to be used for a variety of purposes. This includes a set of linear distances and angles calculated from eight anatomical landmarks of the mandible, the centroid size, the shape variations from the mean shape, and a group of shape parameters extracted with a point distribution model. Results The fully automatic digitization of the mandible contour was very accurate, with a mean point to the curve error of 0.21 mm and a standard deviation comparable to that of a trained expert. The combination of the CNN and the four shape descriptors was validated in the well-known problems of forensic sex and age estimation, obtaining 87.8% of accuracy and a mean absolute error of 1.57 years, respectively. Conclusion The methodology proposed, including the shape model, can be valuable in any field that requires a quantitative description of the mandible shape and a visual representation of its changes such as clinical practice, surgery management, dental research, or legal medicine.

keywords: mandible shape, deep learning