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Role of forensic odontologist in post mortem person identification


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The natural teeth are the most durable organs in the bodies of vertebrates, and humankind's understanding of their own past and evolution relies heavily upon remnant dental evidence found as fossils. The use of features unique to the human dentition as an aid to personal identification is widely accepted within the forensic field. Comparative dental identifications play a major role in identifying the victims of violence, disaster or other mass tragedies. The comparison of ante-mortem and postmortem dental records to determine human identity has long been established. Indeed, it is still a major identification method in criminal investigations, mass disasters, grossly decomposed or traumatized bodies, and in other situations where visual identification is neither possible nor desirable. This article has comprehensively described some of the methods, and additional factors aiding in postmortem person identification.
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Dental Research Journal
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5
Review Article
Role of forensic odontologist in post mortem person identi cation
Jahagirdar B. Pramod1, Anand Marya1, Vidhii Sharma1
1Department of Oral and Maxillo-Facial Pathology, Seema Dental College and Hospital, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
The natural teeth are the most durable organs in the bodies of vertebrates, and humankind’s
understanding of their own past and evolution relies heavily upon remnant dental evidence found
as fossils. The use of features unique to the human dentition as an aid to personal identi cation is
widely accepted within the forensic eld. Comparative dental identi cations play a major role in
identifying the victims of violence, disaster or other mass tragedies. The comparison of ante-mortem
and postmortem dental records to determine human identity has long been established. Indeed, it
is still a major identi cation method in criminal investigations, mass disasters, grossly decomposed
or traumatized bodies, and in other situations where visual identi cation is neither possible nor
desirable. This article has comprehensively described some of the methods, and additional factors
aiding in postmortem person identi cation.
Key Words: Barr bodies, fossils, identi cation, lifestyle, odontometric
Forensic Odontology, or forensic dentistry was
de ned by Keiser-Neilson in 1970[1] as “that branch
of forensic medicine which in the interest of justice
deals with the proper handling and examination
of dental evidence and with the proper evaluation
and presentation of the dental ndings.”Forensic
Odontology is an important component of modern
day investigations for the identi cation of people
in mass disasters, accidents, or where the victim’s
bodies cannot be recognized by visual methods.
The natural teeth are the most durable organs
in the bodies of vertebrates, and humankind’s
understanding of their own past and evolution relies
heavily upon remnant dental evidence found as
The use of teeth as evidence is not recent. There are
historical reports of identi cation by recognizing
speci c dental features as early as 49A.C. However,
Forensic Odontology, as ascience, did not appear
before 1897 when Dr. Oscar Amoedo wrote his
doctoral thesis entitled “LArt Dentaire en Medecine
Legale” describing the utility of dentistry in forensic
medicine with particular emphasis on identi cation.[3]
Historical review
The use of features unique to the human dentition as
an aid to personal identi cation is widely accepted
within the forensic eld.Identi cation by dental
means is not a new technique. It has been said that
Nero’s mistress, Sabina, in 66 A.D., satis ed herself
that the head presented to her on a platter was Nero’s
wife as she was able to recognize a black anterior
tooth.[4] The modern forensic case started in 1897 in
disaster victim identi cation in Paris by a general
dentist. Folklore also ascribes the rst use of bite
mark identi cation to King William the Conquer,
circa 1066 A.D. whose habit it was to secure his mail
with sealing wax imprinted with bite. His anterior
teeth were mal-aligned thus allowing veri cation of
authenticity of his documents.[5]
Identi cation is based on comparison between known
characteristics of a missing individual (termed ante-
Received: July 2011
Accepted: May 2012
Address for correspondence:
Dr. Jahagirdar B. Pramod,
Department of Oral and
Maxillo-Facial Pathology,
Seema Dental College and
Hospital, Veerbhadra Road,
Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India.
E-mail: drpramodbj@gmail.
Access this article online
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5 523
mortem data) with recovered characteristics from an
unknown body (termed post-mortem data). Many
people are familiar with the concept of dental
identi cation; it is frequently mentioned on media. But
the nuances and complexities of the process are rarely
understood. The central dogma of dental identi cation
is that postmortem dental remains can be compared
with antemortem dental records, including written
notes, study casts, radiographs, etc. to con rm identity.
Clearly, individuals with numerous and complex
dental treatments are often easier to identify than those
individuals 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.[6] Visual identi cation in those
circumstances is subject to error. Methods of human
identi cation that are acknowledged as scienti c are
ngerprint, DNA, dental and medical characteristics.[2]
These methods vary in complexity, but share similar
level of certainty. The dental characteristics method
is unique in being the easiest and quickest method of
identi cation. The diversity of dental characteristics
is wide, making each dentition unique.[3] Dental
enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, and would
thus withstand peri and post-mortem damages, and
so would dental materials adjoined to teeth. Being
diverse and resistant to environmental challenges,
teeth are considered excellent post-mortem material
for identi cation with enough concordant points to
make a meaningful comparison.
Comparative dental identification
Comparative Dental identi cations play a major role
in identifying the victims of violence, disaster or
other mass tragedies. The classic comparative dental
identi cation makes use of both post-mortem and
ante-mortem dental records to determine similarities
and exclude discrepancies. In many cases the
tentative identi cation of the individual is unknown
and therefore ante-mortem records cannot be located.
In such cases a dental pro le of the individual is
developed to aid the search for the individual’s
identity. With such a pro le a forensic odontologist
can identify and report indicators for age at time of
death, race and sex. In addition to these parameters
the forensic dentist may be able to give more insight
into the individual. This article outlines for the non-
expert, some of the additional personal information
that can be derived from the teeth of the deceased,
and which may assist in their ultimate identi cation.
The comparison of ante-mortem and postmortem
dental records to determine human identity has
long been established. Indeed, it is still a major
identi cation method in criminal investigations, mass
disasters, grossly decomposed or traumatized bodies,
and in other situations where visual identi cation is
neither possible nor desirable.[7] Dental identi cations
are expeditious, accurate and cost effective.
Despite the well-reviewed nature of comparative
identi cations, postmortem dental pro les have been
somewhat neglected in the forensic literature.[7-10]
Postmortem dental pro les are employed when the
tentative identity of an individual is not available and
therefore ante-mortem records cannot be sourced.
Such situations are not uncommon when remains
are skeletal, grossly decomposed or are found naked
in locations unrelated to their place of residence.
The purpose of the postmortem pro le is to provide
information to investigators that will restrict the
search to a smaller population of individuals. Forensic
odontologists can usually determine the sex, race
and age (at the time of death) from careful study
of the teeth, their anatomical arrangement and the
skull’s osteological features. They can also extract
more information from the teeth of the deceased
depending on the habits, professional occupation and
other criteria that bring about certain anatomical and
constitutional changes in the teeth.
The different methods employed in forensic dentistry
include anthropology, rugoscopy, cheiloscopy, bite
mark analysis, tooth prints, dental DNA analysis,
radiographs, etc.
Forensic anthroplogy
Forensic anthropology plays a vital role in
medicolegal investigations of death. Today, forensic
anthropologists are intimately involved in many
aspects of these investigations; they may participate
in search and recovery efforts, develop a biological
pro le, identify and document trauma, determine
postmortem interval, and offer expert witness
courtroom testimony.
[11] The role of the physical
anthropologist is to describe biological variation
andexplain it in terms of adaptation, evolution, and
history. As teeth are understrong genetic control
and are also the only hard part of the skeleton
directlyexposed to the environment, this variation
takes different forms. Genetic information is sought
in the size, shape, and morphologyof teeth, along
with numerical deviations away from a species’
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5
dental formula. Dental anthropologists are concerned
with genetic and environmental variation provided
by teeth, which are the objects of study. Homo
sapiens, or recentand modern humans, are the
primary focus of dental anthropologists. However,
dental anthropologists also study fossil ancestors
back to the point of hominidorigins and beyond –
to fossil and living primates. As teeth are extremely
hard and durable, it is not surprising that they make
upa signicant portion of the fossil record. This is
certainly as true for hominidfossils as for any other
tooth-bearing lineage.[12]
The study of palate in general is called as Palatoscopy
and the study of the patterns of the grooves and ridges
(rugae) of the palate to identify individual patterns is
called as Rugoscopy. Palatal rugae comprise about
three to seven ridges radiating out tangentially from
the incisive papilla. Venegas et al.[13] determined the
shape, size, number and position of the palatal rugae.
The most prevalent palatal rugae shape was sinuous
followed by curve, line, point and polymorphic
varieties. The palatal rugae that were larger were
the sinuous. The pattern of these rugae is considered
unique to an individual and can be used as reliable
method in postmortem cases. The shortcomings in
applying rugoscopy as a de nitive tool in forensic
odontology are many. Postmortem identi cation is
not possible without the antemortem records. To
give rugoscopy such importance, previous recording,
scanning and preservation through dental casts
and computer records are essential. Kapali et al.[14]
have observed that denture wear, tooth malposition,
and palatal pathology can cause alterations in
rugae patterns. Thomas and kotz[15] from their
studies concluded that different patterns of rugae
are genetically determined, and so can be rather
used in population differentiation than individual
identi cation. Palatal rugae are often destroyed in re
accident cases and in those cases of decomposition
and thus rugoscopy does not have application after
this stipulated period.[16]
Lip prints (cheiloscopy)
Lip prints are normal lines and ssures in the form of
wrinkles and grooves present in the zone of transition
of human lip, between the inner labial mucosa
and outer skin, examination of which is known as
cheiloscopy.[17] Lip prints are unique for individuals
like the nger prints. Lip print recording is helpful
in forensic investigation that deals with identi cation
of humans, based on lip traces. A lip print may be
revealed as a surface with visible elements of lines
representing the furrows. This characteristic pattern
helps to identify the individuals since it is unique for
individuals. One common problem that is encountered
during the cheiloscopic studies is that of smudging or
spoiling of lip prints leading to unidenti able marks
When the lines are not clear (Only the shape of lines
is printed), individual identi cation of human being
based on this trace is extremely dif cult, unless the
trace contains more individual characteristics like
scars, clefts etc, and often identi cation ends with
group identi cation.[18,19]
Bite mark analysis
The science of identi cation of bite mark identi cation
can be used to link a suspect to a crime. Bite can be
de ned as the mark made by human or animal teeth
in the skin of alive people, cadavers or unanimated
objects with relatively softened consistency.[20] Bite
marks depending upon the crime or circumstances
are impressions left on food, skin or other items left
at a scene. In assault cases they may be found on the
victim. Besides the agent identi cation, bite mark
analysis, in a forensic investigation, can elucidate
the kind of violence and the elapsed time between its
production and the examination. It can show if the
bite was produced intra-vitam or post-mortem and in
case of several bite marks, identify their sequence.[20]
The identi cation of the perpetrator can also be done
by the determination of ABO blood groups from the
saliva on the bite mark, and linking bacteria and other
microorganisms found in the bite mark to the oral
milieu of the perpetrator. Newer techniques that have
enhanced bite mark identi cation include application
of electron microscopy and computer enhancement
technique. However, bite marks do not embody
all the requisites of an ideal identi cation method
(unicity, immutability, practicability, classi ability),
but it can represent in some cases, the unique signs
of real value to criminal investigation.[21] There are
many drawbacks of bite mark analysis. The size of
the bitemark may shrink in size in a relatively short
duration (10-20 minutes) and this necessitates their
recording at the earliest possible time.[17] Incomplete
bite marks are not conclusive and a minimum of four
to ve teeth have to be present for reliable bite mark
Forensic radiology
The situations in which forensic radiology can be
applied to resolve legal matters are many and varied.
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5 525
The importance of radiographic techniques in clinical
forensic medicine is widely recognized. It is common
practice to obtain radiographs as part of postmortem
examinations in order to locate foreign bodies or
document fractures or other injuries.[22] The stage
at which radiology is implemented during autopsy
varies according to the individual circumstances, but
usually it is after the external examination and prior
to the dissection.[23] The utilization of radiographs in
identi cation is valuable if suf cient antemortem
records are available. Various morphological and
pathological alterations can be studied from the
radiographs. Crown and root morphology aids in
identi cation. The presence of decayed, missed, lled,
and fractured teeth, various stages of wound healing in
extraction sockets, degree of root formation, and bone
trabecular pattern in the jaws aid in identi cation.
DNA methods
Dental structures are relatively more resistant to
higher temperatures. Techniques involving DNA in
Forensic Dentistry offers a new tool when traditional
identi cation methods fail due to the effects of heat,
traumatism or autolytic processes, as well as in
distortions and dif culties in analysis.[24] They can
provide a source of DNA for easy identi cation. Due
to this abundance of material, the use of the technique
based on PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) has
acquired great importance in DNA post-mortem analysis
in forensic cases. Polymerase Chain Reaction is an
enzymatic ampli cation of a speci c DNA sequence,
aiming millions of copies production from this sequence
in a test tube, which was rst described by Kary Mullis,
in the late 1980’s, and enabling a new strategy of gene
analysis though a simple and fast method, excusing all
the laborious stages of genic cloning.[24] The method
using PCR enables the distinction of a subject among
the other ones with a high level of reliability, starting
by 1ng (nanogram), equivalent to a single part in a
billion grams, of the DNA target.[25] Saliva is a very
useful DNA source due to the fact of being collected
by painless and non-evasive way, able to be used even
when it is stored in the most different conditions.[26]
However, the molecular methods are relatively new and
need to be evaluated different methods of identi cation
applicable in forensic dentistry are available. However,
each one has its own limitations and this should be kept
in mind while applying such techniques. It is necessary
to broaden the pertinent studies of the theme in order to
establish protocols to allow additional tools in criminal
Forensic anthropometry
Anthropometric studies are today conducted
for numerous different purposes. Academic
anthropologists investigate the evolutionary
signi cance of differences in body proportion
between populations whose ancestors lived in
different environmental settings. Human populations
exhibit similar climatic variation patterns to other
large-bodied mammals, following Bergmann’s rule,
which states that individuals in cold climates will
tend to be larger than ones in warm climates, and
Allen’s rule which states that individuals in cold
climates will tend to have shorter, stubbier limbs than
those in warm climates. Today people are performing
anthropometry with three-dimensional scanners. The
subject has a three-dimensional scan taken of their
body and the anthropometrist extracts measurements
from the scan rather than directly from the individual.
This is bene cial for the anthropometrist in that they
can use this scan to extract any measurement at any
time and the individual does not have to wait for each
measurement to be taken separately. This method
holds importance in investigations involving the use
of forensic odontology.
Factors aiding forensic investigation in individual
person identification
Occupation anddental considerations
Knowledge of an individual’s occupation can assist
greatly in the locating of ante-mortem records. Most
occupational diseases result in the loss of dental hard
tissues or tooth staining. Occupational tooth substance
loss can occur due to three main systems – abrasion,
erosion and by caries (decay).
Individuals working within dusty or particulate
environments will frequently exhibit abrasion of their
dental hard tissues. This is caused by the grinding of
teeth onto hard, roughened particles within the mouth.
Such abrasion is most commonly seen on the biting
surfaces of the teeth (occlusal and incisal).[27] Industries
such as our millers, stone grinders and cement
workers may in the absence of proper precautionary
measures, exhibit such tooth substance loss.[28,29] Such
wear may eventually lead to the exposure of dentine
and ultimately the pulp complex. Treatments include
the provision of adhesive gold onlays (gold which is
placed on the tooth to replace the lost tissue) or resin-
bonded tooth coloured restorative materials. While it
would be impossible to identify the actual particulate
causing the abrasion, e.g. cement, stone or our, the
location of a factory of this type in the area of body
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5
discovery may assist the ultimate identi cation. The
list presented in Table 1, includes many of the more
common dental diseases or conditions, which can be
attributed to the occupation of the individual.
Medical conditions and treatments
Knowledge of an individual’s health status can be an
important clue in the determination of identity and
can provide another valuable variable to narrow the
search for ante-mortem records. Medical records can
be searched using keywords relating to a particular
disorder or treatment and when combined with other
de ning characteristics, may enable investigators
to provide a tentative identi cation. Conditions that
have a genetic component can be traced using family
histories which may in these rare conditions, provide
a useful insight to an individual’s identity.
The multitude of obscure diseases that can present
intra-orally can be narrowed when considering those
which impact upon the dental hard tissues. It is
likely that in a post-mortem dental pro le it is these
tissues that will form the basis of the odontologist’s
examination [Table 2].
Habits and dental appearances
A number of lifestyle habits have an effect on the
dental tissues. This can be useful in the search for
an individual – information such that the individual
was a pipe smoker can facilitate the ante-mortem
record search and prompt people who may have
known them. Common habits, such as tea and coffee
drinking, cause extrinsic stains but due to their high
incidence in the population, their use as identifying
features may be insigni cant. However, other habits
offer more useful indicators for investigators. Pipe
smoking is a good example of this. Habitually, pipe
smokers place the pipe stem in the same location and
thus create, over time, a wear pattern in this area. Pipe
smoking is also associated with the usual nicotine
stains and a range of soft tissue appearances which
are beyond the scope of this article. The recognition
of smoking stains can also be of use in the placement
of a cigarette in an artist’s impression [Table 3].
Abnormalities of tooth formation and eruption
There is a range of rare conditions that affect the
developing dentition that lead to distinctive hard
tissue appearances. These are listed and described
in Table 4. The incidence and prevalence levels are
low for each condition and therefore they present
useful identifying features for investigators. Many
of the conditions are associated with severe medical
conditions and it is likely that extensive medical and
dental records (often in specialist practices) will be
available for such individuals. Their unique physical
and dental appearances are easily recognizable to
Table 1: Depicts the oral manifestations in the oral
cavity due to the occupation of the deceased
Occupation Dental
appearance Cause
Stone cutters
Saw mill workers
Flour mill workers
Abrasive dust
formation and
collection on the
occlusal surfaces of
the teeth
Sugar re ners
Candy makers[30]
Caries on
the labial
and buccal
surfaces of
the teeth
Sugar dust deposits,
and stagnates,
buccal surfaces of
the teeth
Metal workers:
staining of
staining of
Fine black
lines on teeth
staining of
Inhalation of dust
Inhalation of metal
fumes leads to
deposition of tin
Chemical workers:
Citric acid, tartaric
acid, hydrochloric acid,
sulphuric acid, etc
Decalci cation of
enamel and dentine,
due to exposure to
fumes. Main effect
to labial surfaces.
Mastication and tooth
brushing lead to loss
of tooth substance
industry: production
of phosphorus and
hydrogen peroxide
Fluorosis Fluorine compounds
used in this industry
have a direct effect
on ameloblasts,
specially in younger
Battery factory worker Yellow,
of labial
surfaces and
erosion of
Cadmium exposure
causes the extrinsic
staining while the
battery acids are
responsible for the
Glass blowers
Dress designers
– single
of multiple
groves found
on incisors
between their
Holding nails, takes,
needles etc, between
their teeth
Wine tasters Erosion,
mainly on the
surfaces on
incisors and
Wine tasting on a
daily basis with at
least 20 wines tasted
per day. Wine pH
varies from 3.0 to 3.6
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5 527
witnesses, relatives and family members. As many of
these conditions have a genetic basis, a family history
may be available.[30]
Location of residence anddental considerations
The determination of likely place of residence can
be based on the dental techniques, the quality of
work and dental materials that have been used to
restore the deceased’s dentition. An assumption
is made that the individual had their dental work
performed in their country of residence. It is
unlikely that a particular country can be identi ed;
however, geographical areas can be identi ed. Dental
techniques and the materials available to perform
them vary widely, and are usually in uenced by
the af uence of the country. Dental training is also
highly variable, and in many countries there is little
or no formal dental training.
Two examples are described here. The rst example
is from Russia. Russian dentistry can often be
categorized by the use of non-precious metals faced
with acrylic rather than porcelain crowns, the use
of non-precious metals in the anterior portion of the
dental arch and work of a generally lower quality
than is seen in the West.
The second example comes from China. In this
example the dental work was an indicator that the
individual was from or had spent time in Asia. The
dental work utilizes only two natural teeth (canines)
to provide support for extensive bridgework. The
bridgework is acrylic with wooden components and
an underlying metal framework. In the West, more
likely treatments would have been a removable
denture, over-denture or implant supported prostheses.
These two examples serve to illustrate that dental
work can be a possible indicator of place of residence.
Unusual restorative techniques may alert the
investigator to the possibility that the individual may
originate from or have spent time in a foreign country.
It is important to remember that good and poor quality
dental work can be provided in any country. However,
Table 2: Depicts the systemic conditions and their
associated dental ndings
Medical condition Appearance
(In dentition) Cause
Hiatus Hernia[31]
Gastric ulcer[32,33]
re ux disease
Marked erosion
of the palatal
surfaces of the
maxillary incisors
and premolars
Regurgitation or
vomiting of gastric
Gastric acid has a pH
below 1.
Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia athletica
Bulimia nervosa[34,35]
Chronic alcohol
Marked erosion
of the palatal
surfaces of the
maxillary incisors
and premolars
Induced vomiting of
stomach contents
Neonatal jaundice Green to
discolouration of
the teeth.
hypoplasia may
also occur
Most frequently
associated with rhesus
teeth show a
discoloration that
uoresces red
under UV light
Autosomal recessive
Circulating porphyrins in
the blood are deposited
in the dental hard
incisors and
Mulberry molars
– distinctive
shaped teeth
Transmission of
an infected mother
Drugs used in treatments and dental considerations
Iron supplements Black staining of
Surface deposition
following oral courses
Precipitation of dietary
Table 3: Depicts the functional and parafunctional
habits and their dental effects
Habit Appearance Cause
Coffee, tea, red
wine drinkers
Brown/black staining
on labial,lingual and
palatal surfaces
Pipe smoking Unusual patterns of
tooth wear in addition
to staining
Painting (canvas) Unusual patterns of
erosion especially on
the buccal surfaces
‘Gouache’ in
paint is acidic,
and transferred
to mouth as
brushes are
often placed
Betel nut use Staining on
Cocaine Localised and
severe dental caries,
particularly in the
maxillary premolar
Testing the
purity of cocaine
by rubbing it
into the gums.
Cocaine is often
mixed with
Heroin High caries rate and
severe periodontal
Oral neglect
Methadone syrup Rampant caries Methadone is
often delivered
as a sugary
syrup which
adheres to teeth
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5
unusual or gross departures from the norm should
always be considered as potentially signi cant.
Sex determination anddentition and dentition
Several authors have examined the ability to determine
gender using odontometric analyses. A famous study
by Rao et al. uses the mandibular canine index to
determine sex, although another study has issued a
caution in using this technique.[43,44] Another study,
using dental casts of children, showed that the teeth,
and in particular the canines were larger in males than
females, and suggested this method for determining
gender in children whose secondary sexual
characteristics had not develop.[45] Many researchers
believe that measurements of tooth size or assessment
of morphology are insuf ciently accurate for forensic
identi cation, particularly in light of more objective
methods.[46] Two examples of such methods are
provided. The rst is a microscopic technique in which
the pulp tissue is examined for Barr bodies (present
only in females). This technique has been shown to
be of value in burnt and mummi ed remains and is
highly accurate.[47] The second method is based upon
PCR analysis of DNA, sourced from the dental pulp,
and the subsequent analysis of the amelogenin gene
for sex determination.[1] Though not unique to DNA
obtained from dental pulp, the teeth often remain the
only source for DNA following incineration or other
postmortem events.[4]
This article has comprehensively described various
methods that can be used for post mortem identi cation
as well as the additional postmortem ndings which
can be determined from the study of individual’s
teeth. It is implicit that none of these items can lead
to a positive identi cation but when combined with
other dental and circumstantial evidence, they can
assist in the focusing of a search for ante-mortem
records or provide useful information for forensic
artists. A forensic dentist carries a considerable
responsibility since his scienti c opinion is frequently
asked when all other paths of identi cation have
been exhausted. There are instances in which teeth
are the only preserved human remains and present
the only means of identi cation in order to narrow
down the search within the missing person’s le and
enable a more ef cient approach. In these cases nal
identi cation may depend on speci c odontological
matching of pre and post-mortem dental data, DNA-
typing and ngerprinting, Anthropometry.
Forensic dentistry plays an important role not only
in mass disasters (terrorist attacks, earthquakes,
Tsunamis), child/elder/spouse abuse, bite mark
analysis, criminal/natural deaths and injuries,
bioterriorism etc., but also helps in identi cation of
decomposed and charred bodies like that of drowned
persons, burns, and victims of motor vehicle accidents.
The various methods have been employed in forensic
odontology which include bite mark analysis, tooth
Table 4: Depicts the Tooth abnormalities and their
Abnormality Description Prevalence
Supernumerary teeth Most common in
the premaxilla. 75%
do not erupt (visible
on postmortem
May be conical,
supplemental or
M:F 2:1
Hypodontia[7] Missing teeth.
Effects, in
descending order
of frequency,
mandibular and
maxillary 3rd molars
(wisdom teeth),
2nd molars,
maxillary lateral
incisors, and
2nd premolars.
Severe Hypodontia
is associated with
Down’s Syndrome
and ectodermal
M:F 1:4
Macrodontia and
Abnormality of tooth
size, microdontia
mainly affects the
maxillary lateral
incisors – so
called peg laterals.
Strongly associated
with hypodontia
Hypoplasia Enamel defects – usually caused by
premature loss of deciduous teeth
– can be an indicator of neglect or
poor oral care
Amelogenesisimperfecta[41,42] Genetic defect
with various
either hypoplastic or
hypocalci ed
history good
– genetic
Dentinogenesisimperfecta[42] Translucent grey
teeth – shell teeth
may be present
– genetic
– family
Pramod, et al.: Role of Forensic Odontology in postmortem person identi cation
Dental Research Journal / September 2012 / Vol 9 / Issue 5 529
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How to cite this article: Pramod JB, Marya A, Sharma V. Role of
forensic odontologist in post mortem person identi cation. Dent Res J
Source of Support: Nil. Con ict of Interest: None declared.
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... Forensic Odontology is a relatively new science that utilizes the dentist's knowledge to serve the judicial system. It has three major thrust areas which includes [1] . 1. Diagnostic and therapeutic examination 2. The identification of individuals, 3. Identification, examination and evaluation of bite mark Human identification is predicated on comparison between glorious characteristics of a missing individual (Ante-mortem data) with recovered characteristics of an unknown body (post-mortem data) [2] . Identification of the deceased is generally done visually by a relative or an acquaintance, who knew the person throughout life. ...
... The dental characteristics technique is exclusive in being the simplest and fastest technique of identification. The diversity of dental characteristics is wide creating every dentition distinctive [2] . Being numerous and resistant to environmental challenges, teeth are considered wonderful post-mortem material for identification. ...
Full-text available
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 records through profiling the deceased person using features related to teeth.
... The use of blood group detection plays a significant role in identification of a person. This is based on the fact that once a blood group is established in an individual, it remains unchanged throughout 9 the life. In Forensic Science, identification of a person is based on comparison between known characteristics of a missing individual collected previously, (termed as ante mortem data) with recovered characteristics from an unknown body, (termed 10 postmortem data). ...
... The sensitivity of pulp in comparison to blood was found to be 96% in this group. In other similar studies sensitivity varying 2,6,9,11 from 80% to 100% have been reported. ...
Full-text available
ABSTRACT : Aims & Objectives: To assess the viability of pulp tissue in identifying the ABO blood group of an individual at various time intervals (same day, after one week and six months of extraction) and assess its reliability by comparing with the routine capillary agglutination method. Materials and Methods: The study was conducted on 75 patients. The capillary blood samples were obtained by finger prick method, the blood grouping and rhesus typing was done by slide agglutination method for each of the 75 patients and considered as controls. The pulp obtained from the extracted teeth of the same 75 patients was considered as case. The cases were divided into 3 groups based on the time interval of pulp extirpation and examination for blood grouping & rhesus typing after extraction. Group I (pulp extirpation on day of extraction), Group II (pulp extirpation after one week of extraction) and Group III (pulp extirpation after six months of extraction). Blood grouping, Rhesus typing for extirpated dental pulp was done by modified absorption elution method. The results of the cases were compared with the respective controls to arrive at conclusions. Results: In Group I (n = 25) and Group III (n = 25), the results of blood group estimation by both the methods matched completely and showed 100% sensitivity. In Group II (n = 25), 24 teeth samples showed consistent results with only one case being non confirmatory and hence a sensitivity of 96%. Conclusion: Teeth are hard structures and resist adverse environmental conditions. The pulp tissue within the tooth is well protected and remains stable retaining the viability of the blood group antigen for at least up to 6 months. Thus, it could be concluded from the present study that the dental pulp tissue can be used with good reliability in person identification.
... [1] Forensic odontology specifically entails identification of the deceased individual via evaluating antemortem and postmortem facts while the deceased person is skeletonized, burned, dismembered, and mutilated in catastrophe or mass tragedies. [2] Although forensic odontology has advanced as a new ray of hope in supporting forensic sciences, this area is still in a state of infancy in India. [3] Dental anatomy and histology are the most important topics studied by dental students when they begin their dental career. ...
... As every tooth has its own shape, structure, size, form, and unique feature, it has a role in the development of professionalism. [2] Dental students are taught to correctly identify the variations in morphology of the teeth and anatomical and functional variations in primary and permanent dentition. Apart from the clinical functions, the teeth also have a vital role in age estimation and sex determination. ...
Full-text available
Dental anatomy and histology is one of the fundamental subjects and a key to comprehend the act of dentistry. Dental features such as tooth morphology and variations in shape and size play a vital role in the area of forensic odontology. Forensic odontology is a challenging field that involves the application of such knowledge of dental sciences in the identification of deceased individuals. The aim and objective was to assess and evaluate the knowledge, attitude, and practice regarding dental anatomy and histology in forensic investigation among dental practitioners. A cross-sectional survey was carried out among 217 dental practitioners from Maharashtra who in their day-to-day life may experience instances of forensic interest. The information was collected through telephonic interview by means of a pretested, close-ended questionnaire. In our study, the general awareness about forensic odontology was found to be more among MDS dental practitioners than BDS dental practitioners. Overall, there is a lack of adequate legal knowledge and forensic practices among the dentists of Mumbai and Nagpur. However, the practitioners did have a positive attitude toward the field and were keen to learn more about it. The study is the first of its kind to be conducted in Maharashtra state of India regarding dental anatomy and histology with respect to forensic odontology. The dental practitioners were also aware about the dental anatomy and dental histology with respect to forensic investigation.
... Forensic odontology is a challenging and attractive branch of forensic science that includes the use of dental science in identifying deceased people by comparing pre-and post-mortem records (2) Forensic odontology focuses largely on the teeth and involves assisting in the identification of deceased individuals and criminals and the specialists should have basic skills and knowledge about forensic odontology and be aware of how to manage dental records, dental DNA analysis, radiography, dental morphology and anatomy (3) . ...
Full-text available
Aims and Objectives: The aim of the study is to assess the knowledge, attitude, and practice of forensic odontology among undergraduate dental students at Kabul university of medical science, Kabul, Afghanistanafter adding this subject in their curriculum Material and Methods: This cross-sectional study is conducted among 150 undergraduate dental students of Kabul University of medical sciences aged 18 and 23 years during the period from December 2020 to February 2021.A questionnaire of Abdul et al. (2019) study was used; the questionnaire consisted of 19 questions that assessed the knowledge, attitudes, and practice of the participants. The questionnaire is divided into three parts: knowledge, attitude and practice. The collected data were analyzed using SPSS-24 software, chi-square test. Results: Ninety percent of the participants were aware of the branch of science called forensic dentistry. All the included participants welcomed the idea of adding a module on forensic odontology to the current undergraduate curriculum. Almost 88.7% of the participants were aware that dental record help for identification of deceased person's age however, The most of undergraduate dental students (90.7%), claim that they have lack of the knowledge related forensic odontology. Most of participants were willing to maintain dental record in their future clinics. Conclusion: Our study showed that the knowledge, attitude, and practice in undergraduate dental students are better since it's added into curriculum of Kabul University of medical science. However,there are no workshops, seminars, and continuing dental education programs for dental students.There is a need for further exposure and formal training to bring awareness among all health-care providers.
... Various techniques such as anthropology, forensic odontology, fingerprint technique etc. [2][3][4][5] have been utilized over the years for the purpose of personal identification. Facial reconstruction using superimposition pattern matching, has also been an effective method of identifying an individual using the frontal sinuses, when available [6][7][8][9]. ...
In cases involving identification of missing persons, mass disasters and ancient DNA investigations, bone and teeth samples are often the only, and almost always the best, biological material available for DNA profiling. Standard methods for extraction of DNA from such samples involve grinding of the bone and teeth samples. Here, we present an extremely efficient protocol for recovery of DNA from bone samples by a method of scrapping. The study was carried out on 25 samples and it was found that the quantity of DNA isolated by the scrapping method was up to 1.131 ng/µl with a success rate of 93% as compared to a much lower yield of 0.359 ng/µl DNA isolated with a success rate of 28% through the grinding method. The scrapping method of DNA extraction has been proven to be extremely useful in forensic examination of challenging samples that had multiple failures using the traditional grinding method.
... For this reason, the teeth and dental restorations are important instruments especially in the identification of mass disaster victims. Forensic odontology plays an effective role in identification efforts [20]. ...
Full-text available
This study aimed to observe the effects of high temperature on different restorative dental materials by detecting changes in their microstructural and elemental composition. Disk shaped samples (10 mm diameter, 2 mm depth) were prepared from 8 dental materials (compomer, glass carbomer, ormocer, giomer, zinc reinforced glass ionomer (GI), silver-alloy reinforced GI, zirconia reinforced GI, and conventional GI). Scanning electron microscopy/Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) was used to characterize sample surface structures and elemental composition. The same samples were also analyzed using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine the trace element content. Each sample was placed in a porcelain furnace and exposed to 900 °C for 30 min. Observations of macroscopic changes in samples after exposure high temperature were recorded. The microstructural changes in sample surfaces after incineration were detected by SEM. The elemental compositions obtained before and after the incineration were compared after repeating the XRF and EDS analyses. Dental materials demonstrated specific macroscopic changes and microstructural deteriorations detected by SEM images after exposure to high temperature. While several changes occurred in the elemental content of materials in terms of amount, the original elemental composition was preserved. The ability to distinguish dental materials by elemental analyses has had an important impact on the identification process.
... Forensic Odontology deals with handling and examination of dental evidence with proper evaluation and presentation of the dental findings with the purpose of contributing scientific and objective data in [1] legal investigations. No two mouths are alike, including the identical twins., thus forensic odontologist comes to play a role, wherein the natural teeth being the most durable organs in the human bodies, act as tools and help in the modern day investigations for the identification of people in mass calamities, accidents, or where the victim's bodies cannot be recognized by visual methods, as teeth leave a recognizable [2] [3] inscriptions. ...
Full-text available
Identification of human remains is of paramount importance in any forensic investigation, as it is essential for legal, criminal, humanitarian and social grounds. In the era of science and technology, the digital techniques have presented new tools for solving medico legal problems. Digital Forensics or Computer Forensic Science helps in identifying, preserving, recovering and analysing the data thereby reducing the manpower. This review paper highlights the advent of various digital techniques in the field of Forensic Odontology.
... 3 The forensic dentistry was defined by Keiser-Neilson in 1970. 4 The term "forensic" has its origin in the Latin word "forensis" from "forum," which means a place where legal matters are discussed. 3 Forensic odontology can be defined as the branch of dentistry that addresses the proper handling and examination of dental evidence and the evaluation and presentation of dental findings W in the interests of justice. ...
Full-text available
BACKGROUND AND AIM: Forensic odontology is a neglected field of dentistry despite its importance in profession. It must be considered as part of dental curriculum and undergraduate students must have insight into the subject. The objective of this study was to evaluate the awareness of dental graduates regarding forensic dentistry in Karachi, Pakistan.
... 5 The anatomical characters and ossification of bones in an individual play a major role in identification in life and after death, and so do the anatomical characters of teeth; the teeth have peculiar characters on each surface e.g. on buccal, labial, occlusal surfaces, and roots. 6 The developmental defects and dental alignment are also of great importance; normal alignment of teeth in a jaw will leave normal bite mark, whereas a jaw with faulty alignment of teeth will leave faulty imprint of bite mark. The arrangement of teeth, recorded in ante-mortem X-ray can be corroborated with the post-mortem X-ray of an individual and identity can be sorted. ...
Full-text available
Background: Due to poor oral hygiene and use of tobacco, dental discolorations are present in some people and may indicate presence of toxic substances in food or body, while some have anatomical faulty alignment of teeth. The objective of the study was to know the frequency of these discolorations and faulty dental alignment in the target population so that a forensic tool could be developed. Methods: A cross sectional descriptive study was done in the Dentistry Department of Ayub Teaching Hospital Abbottabad during the month of October 2019, on routine patients visiting the department, using non-probability convenience sampling. A Performa was made to be filled by dentists examining their patients using the standard dentition chart to locate teeth; notation chart was used for recording observations. The preliminaries along with subvariables were recorded in the Performa for each of 101 patients observed; data were analyzed by SPSS 20 for descriptive statistics. Results: A cross sectional descriptive study was done in the Dentistry Department of Ayub Teaching Hospital Abbottabad during the month of October 2019, on routine patients visiting the department, using non-probability convenience sampling. A Performa was made to be filled by dentists examining their patients using the standard dentition chart to locate teeth; notation chart was used for recording observations. The preliminaries along with subvariables were recorded in the Performa for each of 101 patients observed; data were analyzed by SPSS 20 for descriptive statistics. Conclusions: Dental discolorations and faulty alignment of teeth can be utilized as useful tools in exclusionary method of identification which can be used in living and dead for investigation of identification. It was also observed that there is need to emphasize on community dental hygiene in our hospitals.
Dentition is an individualizing structure in humans that may be potentially utilized in individual identification. However, research on the use of three-dimensional (3D) digital models for personal identification is rare. This study aimed to develop a method for individual identification based on a 3D image registration algorithm and assess its feasibility in practice. Twenty-eight college students were recruited; for each subject, a dental cast and an intraoral scan were taken at different time points, and digital models were acquired. The digital models of the dental casts and intraoral scans were assumed as antemortem and postmortem dentition, respectively. Additional 72 dental casts were extracted from a hospital database as a suspect pool together with 28 antemortem models. The dentition images of all of the models were extracted. Correntropy was introduced into the traditional iterative closest point algorithm to compare each postmortem 3D dentition with 3D dentitions in the suspect pool. Point-to-point root mean square (RMS) distances were calculated, and then 28 matches and 2772 mismatches were obtained. Statistical analysis was performed using the Mann-Whitney U test, which showed significant differences in RMS between matches (0.18 ± 0.03 mm) and mismatches (1.04 ± 0.67 mm) (P < 0.05). All of the RMS values of the matched models were below 0.27 mm. The percentage of accurate identification reached 100% in the present study. These results indicate that this method for individual identification based on 3D superimposition of digital models is effective in personal identification.
Full-text available
The external surface of lips has many elevations and depressions forming a characteristic pattern called lip prints, examination of which is known as cheiloscopy. The lip prints are unique and distinguishable for every individual like fingerprints. The use of lip prints for human identification was first suggested in 1950 and researches were carried out in 1960s and early 1970s, resuming in the last few years. The present study was aimed to study the lip prints of different individuals in different parts of the lip and find out the incidence of any particular pattern in the given age group. Although lip prints identification has been utilized in the court in isolated cases, more researches need to be conducted in this field with regards to confirmation of uniqueness, and the collection and interpretation of evidence.
Full-text available
Bringing together a variety of today’s most accomplished dental researchers, Technique and Application in Dental Anthropology covers a range of topics germane to the study of human and other primate teeth. The chapters encompass work on both individuals and samples, ranging from prehistoric through recent times. The focus throughout the book is the methodology required for the study of modern dental anthropology, comprising the most up-to-date scientific methods in use today – ranging from simple observation to advanced computer-based analyses – which can be utilized by the reader in their own dental research. Originating from the twentieth anniversary meeting of the Dental Anthropology Association, this is a valuable reference source for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, academic researchers, and professionals in the social and life sciences, as well as clinicians.
Establish a person's identity can be a very complex process, one of the main objectives of the forensic sciences. The analysis of the teeth, fingerprints and DNA comparison, are probably the most used technics, allowing fast and secure identification processes. However, these techniques can not always be applied, in some cases, it is necessary to apply different and less known techniques. In this work, a systematic analysis of the shape and dimensions of the palatal rugae was performed. We analyzed 120 subjects of both sexes, between 15 to 20 years olds, fully dentated, and by calcorrugoscopy were determined the shape, size, number and position of the palatal rugae. The most prevalent palatal rugae shape was sinuous (43%) followed by curve (27%), line (15%), point (11%), and polymorphic varieties (4%). The average number was 12.27, being higher in male than female. The palatal rugae that were larger were the sinuous (mean 9.58 mm). 40% of the rugae were found in the E quadrant, followed by D (30%), the rest was distributed among the other regions. The analysis of the palatal rugae and their features can be used as a reliable guide to the forensic identification.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether rugae patterns change with age and to compare the number and pattern of rugae in Australian Aborigines with those of Caucasians. For the longitudinal part of the study, serial dental casts of ten Aborigines, from 6 to 20 years of age, were examined and rugae patterns were recorded. To enable comparisons to be made between different ethnic groups an additional 100 dental casts of Australian Aborigines and 200 casts of Caucasians, ranging in age from 13 to 17 years, were examined. Characteristics observed were number, length, shape, direction and unification of rugae. The length of rugae increased significantly with age but the total number of rugae remained constant. Thirty-two per cent of rugae showed changes in shape, while 28 per cent displayed a change in orientation. In contrast to studies suggesting that rugae move forward with age, the majority of Aboriginal rugae that changed direction moved posteriorly. Changes in rugae patterns have been assumed to result from pala al growth but alterations in pattern were observed in the Aboriginal sample even after palatal growth had ceased. The mean number of primary rugae in Aborigines was higher than in Caucasians, although more primary rugae in Caucasians exceeded 10 mm in length than in Aborigines. The most common shapes in both ethnic groups were wavy and curved forms, whereas straight and circular types were least common. There was a statistically significant association between rugae forms and ethnicity, straight forms being more common in Caucasians whereas wavy forms were more common in Aborigines.
A study of the oral health of workers in flour mills was carried out. The examined group consisted of 40 males and 8 females currently employed at flour mills. As much as 93.75% of the workers showed evidence of dental abrasion, particularly of the front teeth. The authors concluded that the dental abrasions in the group are closely related to the work environment.
Forensic pathologists must identify the bodies and remains falling under their purview in the normal course of death investigation and death certification. Accurate identification is critical and can at times be daunting challenge, especially in mass disaster situations. Many methods can be employed from various scientific disciplines and otherwise, resulting in positive or presumptive identification. Then, proper identification must be maintained and supported where challenged.
Dental pulp tissue could be obtained in most cases from materials obtained under experimental conditions and from forensic casework (air accidents, burned and putrefied bodies). Teeth extracted during dental treatment (n = 30) were stored for 6 weeks and 4 years at room temperature. In addition teeth (n = 10) extracted from jaw fragments that had been stored for 15 years at room temperature, and teeth extracted post mortem from actual identification cases (n = 8) were investigated. Following extraction from dental pulp tissue the DNA concentration was measured by fluorometry. The amount of DNA obtained from the dental pulp tissue of a single tooth varied from 6 micrograms to 50 micrograms DNA. In most cases high molecular weight DNA was still present although the major portion consisted of degraded DNA. Genomic dot blot hybridization for sex determination using the biotinylated repetitive DNA probe pHY 2.1 was performed and sex was correctly classified in all cases using 50-100 ng target DNA. PCR typing of the HLA-DQ alpha and ApoB 3' VNTR systems from dental pulp tissue DNA was in agreement with the results obtained from blood, bloodstains, or lung tissue. In addition, Southern blot analysis of selected samples using the single locus VNTR probe pYNH24 was successfully performed. In all cases the DNA recovered from dental pulp was unsuitable for multilocus probe analysis.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are prevalent illnesses affecting between 1% and 10% of adolescent and college age women. Developmental, family dynamic, and biologic factors are all important in the cause of this disorder. Anorexia nervosa is diagnosed when a person refuses to maintain his or her body weight over a minimal normal weight for age and height, such as 15% below that expected, has an intense fear of gaining weight, has a disturbed body image, and, in women, has primary or secondary amenorrhea. A diagnosis of bulimia nervosa is made when a person has recurrent episodes of binge eating, a feeling of lack of control over behavior during binges, regular use of self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, strict dieting, or vigorous exercise to prevent weight gain, a minimum of 2 binge episodes a week for at least 3 months, and persistent overconcern with body shape and weight. Patients with eating disorders are usually secretive and often come to the attention of physicians only at the insistence of others. Practitioners also should be alert for medical complications including hypothermia, edema, hypotension, bradycardia, infertility, and osteoporosis in patients with anorexia nervosa and fluid or electrolyte imbalance, hyperamylasemia, gastritis, esophagitis, gastric dilation, edema, dental erosion, swollen parotid glands, and gingivitis in patients with bulimia nervosa. Treatment involves combining individual, behavioral, group, and family therapy with, possibly, psychopharmaceuticals. Primary care professionals are frequently the first to evaluate these patients, and their encouragement and support may help patients accept treatment. The treatment proceeds most smoothly if the primary care physician and psychiatrist work collaboratively with clear and frequent communication.
In experiments designed to assess sex chromatin in artificially mummified and heated pulp tissue, a method was devised that successfully separates cells while minimizing nuclear damage. Sex chromatin (both Barr bodies and F-bodies) is shown to preserve in dehydrated human pulps up to one year. Human pulp tissue retains sex diagnostic characteristics when heated to 100 degrees C for up to 1 h. Parallel experiments on extracted teeth from young pigs reveals comparable tissue preservation. Heat penetration is retarded, however, in unextracted pig teeth in fleshed jaws such that temperatures could be raised to 300 degrees C for longer than 1 h. Heat penetration into fleshed material was further tested by the insertion of thermocouple probes to assess the temperature attained within the pulp chamber. At chamber temperatures up to 75 degrees C sex diagnosis in human pulps from extracted teeth was still possible. In outdoor incineration of fleshed pigs' heads in an open fire, 75 degrees C in the pulp chamber was reached at a fire temperature within the range 500-700 degrees C. The implications of these findings for forensic situations are described.