The objective of the study was to investigate the position, position symmetry, shape and number of the mental foramen in a heterogeneous South African population. Knowledge of the precise position of MF in maxillofacial surgery is critical for an accurate local anaesthesia; and can provide a landmark in forensic or medico legal cases. Dry adult human mandibles (n = 325) were selected and classified by ancestry. The sample comprised male-to-female ratio of 1.2:1. Observations were made for the position, position symmetry, shape and number of the mental foramen. There was a substantial to perfect agreement (p < 0.001) for most observations, except for the shape of the MF on the right side of the mandible that had a fair agreement (K = 0.25; P > 0.05). PIV of the MF is shown as the most prevalent position. PIII and IV were commonly observed in males and females respectively. PII was commonly observed in the males of European descent, while PIII was observed in male African and Mixed descents and female European descents. There was no significant difference in the symmetric analysis of MF amongst male and female (p = 0.059) and between ancestry (p = 0.455). But also, an oval shape of MF was the most common across subpopulations and ancestries, with 2 (2 %) and 3 (0.46 %) of the AMFs present. This study is the first comprehensive description of the MF in the South African population, and could be very useful in forensic anthropology in the South Africa population.
KEY WORDS: Mental foramen; mandible; Accessory mental foramen; Mental nerve; Ancestry; South Africa.