Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the changes induced in the pharyngeal airway space by orthodontic treatment with bodily retraction of the mandibular incisors and mandibular setback surgery without extraction. Methods: This retrospective study included 63 adult patients (32 men and 31 women). Thirty-three patients who had been treated via four-bicuspid extraction and bodily retraction of the mandibular incisors (incisor retraction, IR group) were compared with 30 patients who had been treated via mandibular setback surgery (MS group) without extraction. Lateral cephalograms were acquired and analyzed before (T1) and after treatment (T2). Results: The superior pharyngeal airway space did not change significantly in either group during treatment. The middle pharyngeal airway space decreased by 1.15 ± 1.17 mm and 1.25 ± 1.35 mm after treatment in the IR and MS groups, respectively, and the decrease was comparable between the two groups. In the MS group, the inferior pharyngeal airway space (E-IPW) decreased by 0.88 ± 1.67 mm after treatment (p < 0.01). The E-IPW was larger in the MS group than in IR group at T1, but it did not differ significantly between the two groups at T2. No significant correlation was observed between changes in the pharyngeal airway space and the skeletal and dental variables in each group. Conclusions: The middle pharyngeal airway space decreased because of the posterior displacement of the mandibular incisors and/or the mandibular body. The E-IPW decreased only in the MS group because of the posterior displacement of only the mandibular body.
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