OBJECTIVE:The aim was to assess pharyngeal airway dimensions and physiological changes based on lateral cephalometric radiographs from healthy untreated children aged 6-17 years.MATERIALS/METHODS:The sample consisted of 880 lateral cephalograms (412 females and 468 males) of the Zurich Craniofacial Growth Study. Statistical analyses on cephalometric measurements of airway dimensions (distances 'p': shortest distance between soft palate and posterior pharyngeal wall and 't': shortest distance between tongue and posterior pharyngeal wall) and craniofacial parameters were performed. To disclose differences between different age groups, a Kruskal-Wallis test was applied. The influence of gender on 'p' and 't' was analysed by a Mann-Whitney U-test for each age group separately. The Spearman correlation was computed in order to investigate associations between craniofacial parameters. Variables associated with 'p' and 't' were chosen for multiple regression model investigation.RESULTS:The results demonstrated high interindividual variations. A slight influence of age on 'p' (P = 0.034) could be attested (+1.03mm) but not on 't' (P = 0.208). With the exception of the 9-year age group, no significant differences between the genders were found. Correlation analysis revealed several statistically significant correlations between 't' or 'p' and antero-posterior cephalometric variables. All correlation coefficients were, however, very low and the adjusted coefficient of determination also revealed the regression model to be very weak.CONCLUSIONS:The high interindividual variations of 'p' and 't' render the use of reference values problematic. Contrary to other craniofacial structures, neither age-related changes nor sexual dimorphism were found for 'p' and 't'. Any associations to antero-posterior cephalometric characteristics seem low.