In cases of mass disasters, fires, murders and many other scenarios the use of forensic Odontology is the key to identification. Without the mastery of forensic dentistry the investigation process and identification of victims and perpetrators would be nearly impossible. Forensic Odontology is the application of the arts and science of dentistry to the legal system. Included in the application of Odontology are the use of dentition, bite mark identification and the analysis of negligence.Before one can begin to greatly appreciate the use of this method, the knowledge of its history is of key importance. The earliest dated use of forensic dentistry is in the 1st century A.
D. when wife of Roman Emperor Claudius wanted to see the decapitated head if his mistress. His mistress had a discolored front tooth and could easily be identified. Also, King William the Conqueror bit his mail to seal soft wax, enclosing the letters. When doing so, the King would create an outline of his angled teeth in the wax.Another example of this investigation in history indicated 1776 when Paul Revere used a denture to identify an old friend and patient from the battle of Bunker Hill. The United States court system did not adopt this system of dentistry until the mid 1800’s.
The first recorded mass disaster to use Odontology was the Vienna Opera House fire in 1849. Then, approximately 100 years later human bite marks were permitted in court for identifying a biting assailant (James, Nordby). The advancement of science and technology in the application of forensic dentistry has greatly advanced within the past 50 years.Patient x-rays, records and photographs became more widely used in the 80’s, and advanced cameras were able to detail teeth and mass disasters. However, the education of forensic dentistry is paid little attention to while the need for these technicians continues to increase. The process of becoming a forensic dentist requires a license in dentistry and at least four years of training (James, Nordby). Forensic Dentists are frequently requested to give expert witness testimony.
These circumstances require the expert knowledge of Odontology and are used to explain the process and use for a jury during trial.Often, forensic dentists who assist in a specific case will testify to their knowledge and assistance in the investigation. Their testimony has the power of persuading a jury either for or against the defendant. For example, a special use in their testimony is for analysis of bite marks. The forensic dentist is called upon to recall, recognize and analyze bite marks as they apply to the case, and then informs a jury on how the process works and why it is so reliable. Expert witness testimony may also be called upon by dentists for personal injury cases.
The dentist will answer the questions; did negligence by the dentist or physician or his or her staff result in injury to the patient, and was the treatment of the patient by the professional physician below the standard care for the community (James, Nordby)? Body identification by means of dental recognition is the most common use of Odontology. The beginning stages require the review of the oral cavity. Each individual has two types of dentitions in their lifetimes; primary and permanent dentition. Primary dentition develops from around 4 months and lasts until about 6 months to two years of age.
After 2 years the adult teeth begin to grow, and take approximately 6 to 8 years to develop completely. Primarily, adults have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. The jaw is equally divided in half consisting of the upper jaw, the Maxilla, and the lower jaw, the Mandible. Each tooth along the jaw is numbered individually. The structure of the tooth itself consists of the crown; the tooth covering called the enamel, the root also known as the cementum, special fibers that join the ligaments of the tooth, the socket or bone of the tooth and finally, the center of the tooth called the pulp, which is a nervous tissue.
The pulp is often the most important piece due to its use in DNA extraction and analysis (James and Nordby). Part of the body identification process includes postmortem examination and recording. This process begins by accessing the dentition without removal, unless absolutely necessary. A threaded conical-shaped tool is used to open the jaw from the first two teeth since rigor mortis makes the process virtually impossible otherwise.
This will break the rigor mortis. Other methods include cutting the facial muscles to open and release.Then, the dentition examination can begin. In some circumstances the jaws will be removed and examined by autopsy assistants. Incisions in the side of the mouth are made to remove the jaw. During the examination process dentists will record, verbally or written, concerning the presence or absence of teeth. These determinations take the dentists that much closer the determination of death (James and Nordby).
Another process in identifying the body is the antemortem record examination. These records date before death and allow for the identification of medical or dental history.This will assist in the identification of a body compared to postmortem examinations. These records, however, are much more unpredictable. Other then family’s records, these are found in military records and prison archives. The two records are then compared to find if the findings are consistent or different with both.
This allows for the elimination, concurrence or undeterminable results of suspects and victims. A report of the findings are then made to further the investigation, which are stored for use of officials or in the court proceedings (James and Nordby).When testifying about bite mark identification it is important to understand that this knowledge has been used since the beginning of recorded forensic history. Bite marks often lead to the conclusion of loss of function, infections or gross dismemberment since they rarely result in death.
These marks might place an assailant at a crime scene in which a rape, murder or abuse has taken place. For the use of this process to be used in a court of law the marks must be recognizable as bite marks. Bite marks are more easily used on foods or death people rather then the living.This is due to the reliability of dimensions, inflammation and bruising of the living person. Antemortem bite marks are used to identify a time of death. This process works because of the beating heart while the injury is inflicted.
Bruising will be found round the mark that will diffuse after death. Perimortem, or marks left within 5 minutes of death, are used since the injury is inflicted while the heart is still beating, which will leave a well defined mark behind. Thirdly, the least reliable bite mark is a mark left postmortem. This mark occurs after death while the heart is no longer beating.A mark caused after death will have no bruising, but well defined marks (James, Nordby). Bite responses by the assailants and victims are much different and easily differentiated. An offensive bite left by an assailant will have well defined patterns and will occur in singular patterns.
This type of biting will most often occur during arousal and will be more clearly seen in postmortem bites. Defensive bite marks are quite the opposite, however. They are usually ill-defined patterns followed by tearing. These marks frequently result in tearing and appear multiple times in defense of the assault.
Some assailants may leave behind DNA in their bites, and these pieces will further assist the investigation and identification of the assailant (James, Nordby). There are some general guidelines to collecting bite marks as evidence on both victims and suspect, which include saliva swabs of the area, photographic documentation of the area, impressions and tissue specimens. Swabbing the area is best done only when damage or pattern alterations will not occur. This process should be done by cotton tip applicators, and control portions of the individual or item should be taken as swab samples for comparison.When photographing the area guidelines should be followed by the Odontologist. Practical print in color or black and white film should be used with a tripod for photographing or videotaping, as well. Use of a scale and appropriate lighting is of utmost importance when it comes to photographing bite marks. In addition to retrieving the bite marks off of the victim, retrieving a sample of the victim’s dentition may also be helpful if he or she bit the assailant, too (ABFO).
Finally, another commonly used purpose of Odontology is in the analysis and identification of bodies in mass disasters.This use of forensic science is the most difficult challenge an expert can face. Disasters that use this type of expertise include any natural disaster such as earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes or fires to man-made origins such as explosions, fires, bombs or an airplane crash. Each of these results in such great magnitude that require the examination of dismemberment and alterations of dentitions. Planning and special training are required to perform the analysis of both postmortem and antemortem examination. Teams are designated to these scenes and include the chief forensic dentist who makes all dental identifications.
Remaining teams and their roles are well defined and delegated to so there are no miscommunications, hearsay or deviations to previously made plans. The first team is the team to first arrive at the scene next to the chief. The disaster scene must be made clear and safe for all members to productively conduct their duties. This team uses grids to search the area for jaws, teeth and other body parts. Flags are placed by all parts found at the scene which are bagged after the initial search takes place. The second team remains at the morgue awaiting the arrival of all parts found.
Here is where postmortem examinations will be completed, and all examiners are assigned parts or bodies. Each member deals with each other or body individually as to not become overwhelmed. No team will work shifts longer then 3 hours due to resulting stress. Team number 3 is responsible for examining all results and reporting to appropriate officials and family members. This team contacts victim’s family’s to inform them of the death and also recording the findings. Records are kept both digitally and hand written.Team 4 takes on this responsibility of transmitting all data from one form into the other, which are sent to the according agencies (James, Nordby).
Three mass disasters that used the forensic science of Odontology include the Scandinavian Star incident, the railway accident of Zagreb and the midair collision of a British and Slovenian airplane near Vrbovec. The Scandinavian Star incident comprised a motorized ferry bound for Frederikshaven, Denmark from Oslo, Norway. The ferry setoff at 21. 45 hours on April 6th, 1990; several hours after departure the ferry caught fire while crossing into Denmark.The incident claimed 150 lives of people on board. The ship was built in France in the 1970’s as a combined passenger ship and ferry for cars and people. The ship consisted of 9 decks that did not hold automatic fire detection or fighting systems. Prior to these shipping purposes the ship was used primarily for cruises out of Miami, Florida.
The Scandinavian Star had no record of incidents prior to the fire of 1990. Between 1 and 2am on April 7th a small fire was discovered under a pile of clothes outside a door in the hallway. This fire was quickly extinguished; however a second fire was discovered a little after 2am.The second fire could not be extinguished efficiently, and soon thereafter a mayday message was sent out identifying their location. Shortly after 3:00am the Captain ordered all to abandon ship, and at this time four people were already reported dead. By 11:00am the Star was towed to a small town in Sweden where it arrived at 9:00pm. Investigators began arriving on the scene as the ship arrived.
Smoke continued to pore out of the ship, and while further extinguishing the fire it developed again and spread throughout the rest of the ship. Finally, at 4:00pm on April 8th the fire was permanently extinguished.The following week consisted of emergency technicians pulling out bodies from the ship. It was found that 158 people died during the fires, where only 2 were crew members. Both earlier fires were found to be caused deliberately by the application of naked flames to clothes. No one, however, was ever charged for the crime or deaths (IFE). The tragedy of the Scandinavian Star was the largest disaster handled by the Norwegian Identification Commission. All victims were found and identified by the use of Forensic Dentistry, which relies heavily on the quality of dental records kept.
Eighteen forensic dentists were assigned to the scene; thirteen from Norway, four from Denmark and one from Iceland (Solhem T. ). In the railway accident of August 30th, 1974, 326 passengers and crew members died in the turn-over. The Hellas Express Number 410 sped around the curve of the Zagreb railroad at 103. 1 k/h. Forensic pathologists and forensic dentists called in extra help through broadcast and media; in result there was a mix of people of years of experience and simple volunteers with no experience.
Teams were divided including interviewing family and friends and collecting and examining dentitions and records. The entire process concluded four and a half months after the incident on January 17th. At the time of the incident dental recognition was not a popular method for identification. (Jelena). The airline collision on September 10th, 1976, consisted of a British Airlines Trident Three midair colliding with a Slovenian Inex Adria DC-9 near the town of Vrbovec. Both planes fell to different locations on the ground which extended the difficulty of investigation.All 176 crew and passengers of both aircrafts died in the collision. Postmortem examinations were made of all passengers at the Department of Forensic Medicine and Criminology in Zagreb.
Two teams, German and British, were responsible for the examination of dentitions and dental records. Another two teams were responsible for the identification of victims from one plane. The investigation process took three months to finish, on December 7th, 1976 (Jelena). In conclusion, without the use of forensic dentistry the identification of victims in all three mass disasters would have been nearly impossible.
These are only a small example of the importance of Odontology and the need for programs for future forensic dentists. Natural disasters, fires and mass murders would also be difficult to investigate regarding the dental identification of victims and suspects. Works Cited 1. Stewart H. James and Jon J. Nordby, Forensic Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques. Second Edition. (Taylor and Francis Group 2005).
2. http://www. abfo. org/bitemark.
htm. ABFO Bitemark Methodology Guidelines. January 8, 2008. 3. http://64. 233. 169.
104/search? q=cache:lfDoeKh0cAUJ:www. cmj.hr/2001/42/6/11740850. pdf+Scandinavian+Star+identification+process;hl=en;ct=clnk;cd=9;gl=us. “Dental Identification after Two Mass Disasters in Croatia” by Jelena Dumanei? , Zvonimir Kai? , Vera Njemirovskij, Hrvoje Brki? in Croatia Medical Journal 2001;42:657-662. 4. http://www.
fire. org. uk/marine/papers/scanstar. htm.
“The Scandinavian Star Incident: A Case Study” by Alan Robinson, BSc, MSc, PhD – Partner, Dr J. H. Burgoyne ; Partners in IFE Journal. January 1999 5.
http://hrcak. srce. hr/index. php? lang=en;show=clanak;id_clanak_jezik=4555. “The Scandinavian Star” Ferry Disaster of 1990.