• forensic science;
  • forensic odontology;
  • palatal rugae pattern;
  • rugoscopy;
  • human identification;
  • sexual dimorphism;
  • geographic origin

Abstract:  Palatal rugae have been related with specific racial groups and are said to be useful in sex discrimination. This work aimed to characterize the palatal rugae patterns in a Portuguese population. Fifty plaster casts were examined for first and third rugae shape evaluation; shape, frequency, and association with sex were studied. In females, the most prevalent first rugae were the straight type on the right and the curve type on the left; in males, the straight type was the most prevalent on both sides. The most frequent third rugae type was sinuous on both sides, in both sexes. No significant sexual dimorphism in rugae shape was found (p > 0.05). When comparing these results with those from other investigations, it was clear that a particular rugae pattern could be established for different ethnic groups. However, the small sample size justifies further work in larger samples to validate these findings.