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Forensic Dentistry

provided by: David DiGiallorenzo

Forensic scientists apply science to law. They play a crucial role in the criminal justice system as they provide scientific information to crime scene investigators and the court. They need to be able to integrate skills and knowledge in examining, analyzing, interpreting, reporting, and giving courtroom testimonies of any scientific evidence. In most cases, they also have a background in chemical, physical, or biological sciences. Forensic science has various subfields and forensic dentistry is a new science in which the professionals use information collected through dental records and examinations to connect a criminal to a crime. Forensic dentists also use their knowledge to help identify the deceased. Continue reading to learn more about this career.

Looking Closer at Forensic Odontology

A branch in forensic science called forensic dentistry, also referred to as forensic odontology, deals with handling, examining, and presenting dental evidence when it is needed in particular court cases. By studying the teeth, the information gathered typically involves making a positive identification of the person, determining their age, and determining any signs of a violent crime. This is done with the use of dental records which includes radiographs, photographs, post-mortem, and ante mortem reports.

Forensic Dentists

Forensic dentists have various duties which include studying bite marks which may be on the victim and making an estimate of the victim’s age. More frequently, a forensic dentist makes a comparative identification when a victim is deceased. This means they help identify a victim through dental examinations and records. It is imperative that forensic dentists are great communicators because in many cases they will be presenting their information in court. These dentists create profiles of any unidentified victims by providing gender, age, and race solely based on the victim’s dental structure. They will also make data evaluations in claims in worker’s compensation, dental malpractice, and other civil cases. They also maintain databases of any unidentified victims. More in-depth information can be found online but be sure to remember the individual college and universities will vary in courses and programs.

Estimating Age

Forensic dentists also work with the National Crime Information Center as well as being called in to work in geographical areas which may have been devastated by any natural disasters such as floods, which can leave a number of victims unidentified. Any wear and tear, mineral deposits on root surfaces, and tooth eruption patterns can indicate the age of a person. When it comes to children, comparison charts are used against the development of their teeth in order to determine an approximate age. When working with teenagers, the development of their teeth is greater which means the study will be more accurate. With young adults, variation in age accuracy is around four years. Older and middle-aged individuals are tougher to identify due to restorations, extractions, excessive wear or diseases which make the accuracy in identification around ten years, which is normal in most cases.

Analyzing Bite Marks

Analyzing bite marks is another important aspect for forensic dentists. In violent crimes, such as murder or rape, the criminal will likely leave at least one bite mark on a victim. Forensic dentists will collect and compare the bite marks in order to make a positive identification of the person who committed the crime. Every detail from size, color, location, appearance, and amount of bites is recorded. Samples and photos are taken as well. Using the impressions, a mold and profile of the criminal is made. If there is an arrest made of a suspect, their personal dental records are compared to the bite marks on the victim. Oftentimes there may even be DNA evidence along with the bite marks which can help in tying a suspect to the actual crime.