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...