Forensic Odontology

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Antonio Santos

Abstract
Forensic Odontology is a relatively new science that utilizes the dentist’s knowledge to serve the judicial system. Worldwide, dentists qualified in forensic science are giving expert opinion in cases related to human identification, bite-mark analysis, craniofacial trauma and malpractice. Human Identification relies heavily on the quality of dental records. However Forensic Odontologists can still contribute to the identity investigation in the absence of dental record through profiling the deceased person using features related to teeth.

Along with other healthcare providers, dentists encounter cases of injuries which could be non-accidental. Detection, interpretation and management are important from a legal and humanitarian point of view. Dentists should be aware of the legal impact those cases have, and should refer them to the appropriate authorities for suitable action.

Forensic Odontology
In cases of mass disasters, fires, murders and many other scenarios the use of the forensic Odontology is the key to the identification. Without the mastery of forensic dentistry the investigation process and identification of victims and perpetrators would be nearly impossible.

Forensic dentistry or forensic odontology is the proper handling, examination and evaluation of dental evidence, which will be then presented in the interest of justice. The evidence that may derived from teeth, is the age and identification of the person to whom the teeth may belong. This is done including radiographs, ante-mortem (before death) and post-mortem photographs and DNA. If ante-mortem records are not available, a post mortem record is created by the forensic dentist for possible future comparison. The comparison is methodical and systematic: Each tooth and structure is examined and compared. Fillings, caps, and restorations play the largest role in the identification process. Similarities should be noted during the comparison process, as well as explainable and unexplainable discrepancies. If a discrepancy is unexplainable, such as a post-mortem tooth that is not present on the ante-mortem record, then odontologist will conclude that two different people are represented.

There are many organizations that deal with forensics odontology. The ABFO (American Board of Forensic Odontology) was organized in 1976 with the auspices of the National Institute of Justice. Their mission is to establish, enhance, and revise as necessary, standards of qualifications for those who practice forensic odontology, and to certify as qualified specialists those voluntary applicants who comply with the requirements of the Board. Their purpose is to identify forensic scientists unequivocally qualified to provide essential professional services for the Nation’s judicial and executive branches of government as long been recognized. This board consists of individuals who are nationally and internationally recognized experts. Another organization that is related to forensic odontology is the BAFO (British Association for Forensic Odontology). The BAFO exists to encourage education and good practice in forensic odontology and accredit, review performance and mentor practitioners in forensic odontology.

The procedure to how a forensic dentistry works is delicate and may take hours to complete. A good example would be if a bite mark was discovered while conducting an autopsy. One of the first things a forensic dentist will do is obtain a saliva example of the bite. This step can be done by other people as well but it is safer to go with the forensic dentist as he knows how to handle the situation. The next step would be taking photographs of the bite mark. This step is very delicate as the dentist would need to get good lighting, color, and camera angle for his shot to be clear. After these photographs are taken the dentist is to make multiple impressions, casts, or molds of the bite-mark. Once everything is done the dentist...
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