The mental foramen (MF), located in the body of mandible in the region below the inferior premolars, is the anatomical structure through which the mental neurovascular bundle emerges. The MF can be seen clearly in panoramic X-rays. The object of the present study was to carry out a literature review in order to identify the frequency and position of the MF in panoramic X- rays. We looked for articles in the SCiELO, Pubmed, Scopus, LILACS, Web of Science and EBSCOhost databases, for the years 2006 to 2016. The key words used were "mental foramen", "mandibular canal", "inferior alveolar nerve", "anatomy" and "panoramic X-ray". Once the articles had been selected, an analysis was made of their methodological quality; poor-quality articles were excluded. In each article the frequency and position of the MF in each hemi-mandible was analyzed. We found 82 articles, of which 20 were retained after application of the exclusion criteria. The MF was found in 4,824 hemi-mandibles (95.2 %), with greater presence on the left side (50.29 %) than the right (49.71 %). The MF is most commonly located between the apices of the inferior premolars (42.22 %), coincident with the root of the second inferior premolar (33.98 %) or distal of the root of the second inferior premolar (10.98 %). The MF is a very frequent anatomical structure. Knowledge of its location is fundamental for reducing the risk of accidents and unexpected events during clinical and surgical manoeuvres.
KEY WORDS: Mental foramen; Mandibular canal; Inferior alveolar nerve; Panoramic X-ray; Anatomy.