Forensic dentistry, which sometimes referred to as forensic odontology, is an exciting and dynamic area of dentistry. Forensic dentistry was officially recognized in 1969 with the establishment of the American Society of Forensic Odontology. Where dentistry interacts with the law, while the names are interchangeable, the field of forensic dentistry is commonly recognized by the identification of human remains, but it involves much more, and can also be useful in the evaluation of bite mark evidence, dentures and braces.
Forensic Dentistry does go back as far as AD 59, when the roman emperor Nero had his mother Agrippina murdered by a slave, her corpse was identified from her teeth. (Platt). Modern forensic dentistry began on May 4, 1897, when a fire at a charity bazaar killed 126 wealthy Parisians. Three- quarters of the victims were recognizable from clothes or possessions, and they were too badly burned to be distinguished. At the suggestion of a diplomat, dental records were used to sort out the remains. This proved successful, and helped the pioneers of forensic odontology, Davenport and Amoedo established guidelines that are still followed today.
(Davenport, Amoedo). Forensic science includes the application of established scientific techniques to the identification, collection, and examination of evidence from crime scenes, the interpretation of laboratory findings, and the presentation of findings in judicial proceedings (SWGDAM) The most common role of the forensic dentist is the identification of the deceased body. Dental identification takes two main forms. Firstly, the examination is performed to establish to a high degree of certainty that the remains of the decedent and a person represented by the antemortem are the same, with dental records.
Information from the body or circumstances usually contains clues as to who has died. In cases where antemortem records are not available, and no clues to the possible identity exist, a postmortem (after death) dental profile is completed by a forensic dentist. However, in some instances a more novel like technique has been applied. There has been a number of requests from people and dental organizations over the years to insist that dental prostheses are labeled with the patients name or a unique number.
The NHS provide a fee for dentist who label their patients dentures, usually the wearer is a resident in a retirement home or other establishment with a central sterilizing system for dental prostheses. (Anderson, Wenzel) Labeled dentures can be of great help in the identification of individuals. Unlabelled dentures have been recovered from patients and then fitted to casts retained by the treating dentist or laboratory. Other dental appliances, such as removing braces have also been used for identification purposes. Next to fingerprints, teeth are the most useful tool in determining positive identification of human remains.
Teeth are the most durable portion of the body and have the ability to resist erosion, deterioration, and fire long after death (Eckert, WG. ) Teeth must be exposed to a temperature of over 500C (932F) to be reduced to ash. Dental identification of humans occurs for a number of different reasons and in a number of different situations. The bodies of victims of violent crimes, fires, motor vehicle accidents and work place accidents, can be disfigured to such of a degree that identification by a family member is neither reliable nor desirable.
People who have been deceased for some time prior to discovery and those found in water present unpleasant and difficult visual identifications. Dental identifications have always played a key role in natural and manmade disaster situations and in particular mass casualties normally associated with aviation disasters. Because of the lack of comprehensive fingerprint database, dental identification continues to be crucial in the United Kingdom. Many different techniques are used to gain different types of information.
These techniques vary depending upon the part of the skeleton being examined. Many people are familiar with the concept of dental identification; because it is mentioned on the television and news. But the complexities of the process are rarely understood. The central code of dental identification is that postmortem dental remains can be compared with antemortem dental records, including written notes, study casts, radiographs, to confirm identity. People with numerous and complex dental treatments are often easier to identify than those with little or no restorative treatment.
The teeth not only represent a suitable repository for such unique and identifying features, they also survive most postmortem events that can disrupt or change other body tissues. (Platt). The process of identification has three types or stages. The first is a general identification when the remains are completely or mostly skeletonized. Comparisons between possible identities and the unknown individual can direct investigators to a presumptive or positive identification. This can be from tattoos, circumstantial evidence, personal effects, or facial reconstruction.
A corpus identification, in which a relative or close friend identifies the body. Typically, human remains are found and reported to the police who then initiate a request for dental identification. Often a tentative identification is available from a wallet, or driving licence that might be found on the body and this will enable antemortem records to be located. In other instances, the location in which the body is found or other physical characteristics and circumstantial evidence, may enable a putative identification to be made, frequently using data from the missing persons database.
Records are then obtained from the dentist for their records. The forensic dentist produces the postmortem where the filling was placed. Dental records secured the identification of the person. In other cases, it is possible to identify fibers that had been placed within a lower denture to reinforce it. This rare procedure enabled an identification of the wearer who was a victim of homicide. Because of the resistant nature of dental tissues to environmental assaults, such as incineration, immersion, trauma, mutilation and decomposition, teeth represent an excellent source of DNA material.
When conventional dental identification methods fail, this biological material can provide the link to prove identity. Case study: The Irish Republican Army killers left few clues when they shot dead Billy Craig and his father. Just a pile of spent cartridges and a half eaten apple. Yet from the unusual bite marks in the fruit, a professor of orthodontics made a remarkable diagnosis. By noticing a jaw deformity he predicted that the killer would be tall and thin, with high shoulders and a long, narrow face. He or she would have a big nose, a high forehead, and a lantern jaw, as well as possible breathing difficulties.
When a informer led the police to a possible suspect, the resemblance was uncanny. A cast from his deformed teeth confirmed that there was only an extremely remote chance that another man had bitten the apple. The IRA hitman got seven life sentences for his part in these, and other, murders. (Platt) When body tissues have decomposed, the structures of the enamel, dentine and pulp complex persist. Then it is necessary to extract the DNA from the tissues, using the grinding method.
The crown consists of an outer layer of enamel and an inner layer of dentin. Dental enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body. Once the postmortem record is complete a comparison between the two records can be carried out. A methodical and systematic comparison is required; this is examining each tooth and surrounding structures (Singleton, AC. ) Similarities and discrepancies should be noted during the comparison process. There are two types of discrepancies, those that can be explained and those that cannot.
Explainable discrepancies normally relate to the time elapsed between the antemortem and postmortem records. If a discrepancy is unexplainable, for example a tooth is not present on the antemortem record but is present on the postmortem record then, exclusion must be made. When dental records are unavailable and other methods of identification are not possible the forensic dentist can assist in limiting the population pool to which the deceased is likely to belong. This kind of profiling will typically provide information on the deceased age, ancestry background, sex, and social economics status.
In some instances it is possible to provide additional information regarding occupation, dietary habits, and habitual behaviors. The determination of sex and ancestry can be assessed from skull shape and form. From skull appearance, forensic dentists can determine race within the three major groups; Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. The skulls of white people are generally high and wide in appearance. The cheekbones do not project, nor does the jaw. People of Asian descent have long skulls, broad and conspicuously flat faces, and projecting cheekbones.
The eye sockets are rounded, and the nose bridge is moderately low. Afro- Caribbean skulls have wide nose openings. Teeth are larger than other races, and the skull tends to be long and narrow (Platt). Sex determination is usually based on cranial appearance, as no sex differences are apparent in the morphology of teeth. Microscopic examination of teeth can confirm sex by the presence or absence of Y-chromatine and DNA analysis also can reveal the sex. It is important to note that there is no minimum number of points or features that are required for a positive identification.
In many cases a single tooth can be used for identification if it contains sufficient unique features. A full mouth may not reveal sufficient detail to render a positive conclusion. Conclusions Forensic dentistry plays a major role in the identification of those individuals who cannot be identified visually or by other means. The unique nature of our dental anatomy and the placement of custom restorations ensure accuracy when the techniques are correctly used. This is a fascinating field. Final recommendations
I am so fascinated with this career, one thing is for sure I am not looking forward to the smell of the bodies or the stress that comes along with the job but it will be well worth it I will be finally doing something that I will enjoy. The excitement of solving a case will be what I will look forward to until that day comes. I have read, and investigated so much about my career that it still is very interesting to me. I have learnt that most forensic dentists are only part- time this I don’t care for that much, but the pay makes up for that $250. 00 an hour.
I guess that’s why their only part-time! For me just to be a regular dentist is not exciting enough, I will enjoy being on call and solving cases, really using your brain. Works Cited Amoedo, O. “Study of Teeth After Death. ” Dental Digest 1903: 9. Print. Anderson, Wenzel. “Individual Identification By Means Of Conventional Biting. ” Forensic Science. 72. 55 (1995): 64. Print. Eckert, WG. “The History Of The Forensic APPLICATION. ” Forensic Med. 5. 53 (1984): 53. Print. Singleton, AC. “The Roentgenological Of Victims. ” Am I Roe. 66. 84 (1951): 66. Print.