ArticlePDF Available


Journal of Indo-Pacific Acadmey of Forensic Odontology Vol 7, No. 1, Jan-June, 2018
Review Article
Vartika Chaddha1, Aman Chowdhry2, Deepika Bablani Popli3*
Faculty of Dentist,
2Associate Prof, 3Asst Prof,
Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Dentistry,
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
* Corresponding author:
A bite mark has been defined as a pattern produced by human or animal
dentitions and associated structures in any substance capable of being marked by these
Key Words: Bitemarks, Forensic Odontology
A bite mark has been defined as a
pattern produced by human or animal
dentitions and associated structures in any
substance capable of being marked by
these means.1
The first case which used bite marks
as evidence in the court of law was in 1954,
Doyle vs. State in Texas. Here a dentist and
a firearms expert were called upon to match
the bite marks of the suspect which were
left behind at the scene of crime on a piece
of cheese. Either of them did not have any
previous exposure to bite mark analysis yet
the evidence was admitted.2 Following this
case, bite mark analysis have been used as
positive evidence by the judiciary all over
the globe including in India.3-6 The
reliability and value of bite mark as forensic
evidence still remains disputed due to lack
of trained forensic odontologists and a
paucity of research facilities.
Dentists often have to seek training
abroad to hone their forensic skills. The
Journal of Indo-Pacific Acadmey of Forensic Odontology Vol 7, No. 1, Jan-June, 2018
Dental Council of India (DCI) has addressed
this concern and has recommended
inclusion of forensic odontology in the BDS
(Bachelor of Dental Surgery) curriculum,7
ensuring that dentists gain basic knowledge
of forensics and medico legal procedures
during their bachelors degree program.
The American Board of Forensic
Odontostomatology (ABFO) gave certain
guidelines in 1986 for standardization of bite
mark analysis. The guidelines objectified the
procedure of taking history, photographs,
extra oral and intra oral photography, taking
bite mark impression and preparing study
casts.8 As per these guidelines, the first step
prior to collection of any bite mark evidence
is taking Orientation photographs. (FIG 1)
Fig 1: Example of a human bite mark
orientation photograph.
This should then be followed by
saliva swabs of bite site preferably by the
double swab technique.9 The bite site
should then be digitally photographed by or
under the guidance of a forensic
odontologist. Photographs should be taken
with and without an ABFO #2 photometric
scale in place. (FIG 2, 3). Impressions
using ADA approved impression materials
should be made of the bite mark when
three-dimensional properties are seen. If
permitted by authorities the bite site tissue
can be excised and preserved in post
mortem cases.
Fig 2: Example of digital clos-eup
photograph of a bite mark with an ABFO
#2 photometric scale in place.
Journal of Indo-Pacific Acadmey of Forensic Odontology Vol 7, No. 1, Jan-June, 2018
Fig 3: Example of digital close-up
photograph of a bite mark.
Following this evidence collection of
suspected human dentition is carried out
which includes dental treatment records,
examination, impressions, sample Bites and
saliva collection. After careful appraisal of
bite mark evidence, a comparison of
suspect records with bite mark evidence is
done by any one of the various available
methods such as overlays, test bites,
comparison techniques, transillumination,
and stereomicroscopy.
Here we would also like to highlight
the fact that in our country most of the
forensic related work is done at the Central
and State Forensic Science Laboratories,
which use primarily the bite mark
superimposition technique for
identification.14 The routine medico legal
cases/forensic autopsy cases where
examination of teeth/bite marks is required,
are handled mostly by Forensic Physician,
Forensic Pathologist and rarely by Dentists
making use of routine methods including
clinical examination of teeth and simple
dental radiographs.
After careful appraisal of literature,
we have prepared a compilation of the
strengths and weaknesses of bite mark
evidence [Table 1].
There is a need for translation of the
forensic science research into specialized
methods for dental identification and bite
mark analysis. In India, bite mark evidence
has been used in cases like: The Nirbhaya
Gang Rape case, Sheena murder case,
Papermill Colony case and numerous
others.4,17,18 However, there is lack of
standardization of techniques and need for
translational research in the subject. It is the
need of the hour, that the dental fraternity of
India realizes their role in the criminal
investigation system and undertake the
mammoth task of ensuring that forensic
odontology becomes a more reliable and
useful tool for investigation. Furthermore,
the courts should not hesitate to base their
verdict on the undisputed dental evidence
tendered by Forensic dentist in the Court of
Journal of Indo-Pacific Acadmey of Forensic Odontology Vol 7, No. 1, Jan-June, 2018
TABLE 1: Illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of bite mark evidence
Unique and distinctive like fingerprints.
Commonly found at crime scenes on skin and
food items.10
Source of assailant DNA.
Objective and reliable scoring system for
ruling out suspects.
Lack of standardized procedures leading to
overdependence on the expertise of the
forensic odontologist.11
Viscoelastic property of skin causes
Innocents put behind bars, later proved not
guilty using DNA.13
Possibility of change in the shape and size of
the mark due to alteration in the body
Arch configuration of any individual can
change over time, which can alter the bite
marks produced.16
Road ahead: Bite mark analysis should not
be shunned by calling it inaccurate and
unscientific rather one should explore
newer avenues for improving its accuracy.
Before jumping into the bandwagon of
numerous organizations, like The Texas
Forensic Science Commission, which
recommend, in 2016, that bite mark
evidence should not be used in criminal
prosecutions.20 One should introduce
standardization in bite mark analysis. More
research, resources and scientific
commitment are required to enhance this
invaluable tool of forensic odontology.
1. Clark MA, Sandusky GE, Hawley DA, Pless
JE, Fardal PM, Tate LR. Fatal and near-fatal
animal bite injuries. J Forensic Sci.
2. Rothwell BR. Bite marks in forensic
dentistry: a review of legal, scientific issues.
J Am Dent Assoc. 1995 Feb;126 (2):223-32.
3. Pierce LJ, Strickland DJ, Smith ES. The
case of Ohio v. Robinson. An 1870 bite
mark case. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1990
4. Balachander N, Aravindha NB, Jimson S,
Priyadharsini C, Masthan KMK. Evolution of
forensic odontology: An overview. J
Journal of Indo-Pacific Acadmey of Forensic Odontology Vol 7, No. 1, Jan-June, 2018
Pharmacy and Bioapplied Sciences.
5. Huseyin A, Karaday B, Cagdir SA, Ozaslan
A. Role of bite mark characteristics and
localizations in finding an assailant. J
Forensic Dental Sciences. 2014;6:202
6. Kemp A, Maguire SA, Sibert J, et al Can we
identify abusive bites on children? Archives
of Disease in Childhood 2006;91:951.
7. (2018). Dental Council of
India. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Feb.
8. ABFO : American Board of Forensic
Odontology. (2018). home. [online] Available
at: [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].
9. Pretty IA, Sweet D. A paradigm shift in the
analysis of bitemarks. Forensic Sci Int. 2010
Sep 10;201(1-3):38-44.
10. McKenna CJ, Haron MI, Brown KA, Jones
AJ. Bitemarks in chocolate: a case report. J
Forensic Dental Sciences. 2015;7:22
11. Pretty IA, Sweet D. The scientific basis for
human bitemark analysesa critical review.
Sci Justice. 2001;41(2):85-92.
12. Innocence Project. (2018). Cases Where
DNA Revealed that Bite Mark Analysis Led
to Wrongful Arrests and Convictions -
Innocence Project. [online] Available at:
[Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
13. Barbenel JC, Evans JH. Bite marks in skin
mechanical factors. Journal of the Forensic
Science Society. 1974;14(3):2358.
14. DeVore DT. Bite Marks for identification? A
preliminary report. Journal of Medicine,
science, and the law. 1971;11(3):1445.
15. Bowers, CM. Problem-based analysis of bite
mark misidentifications: the role of DNA.
Journal of Forensic Science International.
2006. 159 Suppl 1: S1049.
16. Kaur G., Chanana S. Forensic Odontology
and its Indian Perspectives. Journal of
Punjab Academy of Forensics and
Toxicology.2009; 9(1):21-3.
17. Srivastava, R. (2018). Bite marks offer clue
in woman's murder - Times of India. [online]
The Times of India. Available at:
[Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
18. Silver, J. (2018). Commission Wants
Restriction of Bite-Mark Evidence. [online]
The Texas Tribune. Available at:
mark-eviden/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
19. DNA. (2018). First in Mumbai: Forensic
odontologist helps secure rape conviction |
Latest News & Updates at Daily News &
Analysis. [online] Available at:
Journal of Indo-Pacific Acadmey of Forensic Odontology Vol 7, No. 1, Jan-June, 2018
secure-rape-conviction-2088036 [Accessed
19 Feb. 2018].
20. Innocence Project. (2018). Texas Forensic
Science Commission Steps Up to
Investigate Bite Mark Analysis - Innocence
Project. [online] Available at:
investigate-bite-mark-analysis/ [Accessed 19
Feb. 2018].
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The location, size, and number of bite marks can be used as a beneficial indicator of the crime type and feasible group of suspects. This study aims to present information about the bite mark locations, the bite mark characteristics, and the perpetrator’s profile based on three cases which were carried out by the same biter. The attack bites, which observed in all of the three cases, were characterized by serious wounds and tissue loss. Analysis of bite mark characteristics and bite mark localizations of these three cases by the relevant experts provided helpful information for the police units which searched for the assailant. But, in order to conduct criminal profiling from bite marks objectively, the number of case series is advised to be expanded.
Forensic dentistry or forensic odontology admits dentists' participation or identification of the victim and assisting legal and criminal issues. It refers to the proper handling, examination, identification and evaluation of dental evidence. This article summarizes the evolution of forensic odontology that started right from Garden of Eden to the modern scenario in identification of the gang rape case which happened in the state capital. Forensic dentistry plays a significant role in identifying the victims of crime, deceased individuals through the examination of anatomical structures, dental appliances and dental restorations.
There have been major changes in the approach to and philosophy surrounding bite-mark analyses in recent years. This has resulted in a paradigm shift. Concentrating on three important areas, this review aims to describe the shift in the bite-mark paradigm following recent research studies, the increasing numbers of wrongful convictions that are associated at least in part with bite-mark analyses, and the publication of the United States National Academy of Sciences report entitled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. The article provides an update on the current context and status of bite-mark analysis. Given the present combination of critical elements, a new level of caution that includes the use of a careful scientific approach to casework, increased reproducibility of conclusions by independent analysts, and hypothesis-driven research is needed. Bitemarks have the ability to exonerate the innocent, protect children from harmful caregivers, and convict the guilty. However, they also may be the enemy of natural justice.
Fatal and near-fatal maulings of humans by pit bulls have recently become a topic of major public concern, resulting in the passage of laws in some jurisdictions that make the owner of a pit bull criminally liable for manslaughter if his or her pet causes a human death. The authors recently investigated two cases in which children were fatally injured by pet dogs. In the first case, a 17-day-old girl suffered fatal abdominal injuries when attacked by a pregnant Siberian husky. A 2-year-old girl expired from neck wounds inflicted by a pit bull or a rottweiler or both. Because no expert would testify as to which dog caused the fatal injury, the owner of the animals was not charged under a statute which specified criminality only if a pit bull caused the fatal injury. We also examined a 12-year-old boy who attempted to pet a circus tiger; the animal grabbed his arm with its claws and bit off the arm at the shoulder. The arm could not be reattached, but the child survived. These cases and the differentiation of animal bites from other injuries will be presented.
In 1870, Ansil L. Robinson was charged with the murder of his mistress, Mary Lunsford, in Mansfield, Ohio, U.S.A. Evidence against Robinson included an attempt to match his teeth to bite marks on the victim's arm. Robinson was acquitted after a 3-week trial despite the evidence linking his teeth to the wounds. This trial represents an early and perhaps the first attempt to admit bite-mark evidence in a court of law in the United States. The acquittal resulted in the obscurity that prevented this case from coming to the awareness of the forensic dental and legal communities sooner.
The mechanical factors concerned in bite marks involve firstly the forces applied to skin. These may be direct biting pressure from the teeth but in addition suction and tongue thrusting may be involved. The properties of the particular area of skin bitten may affect the appearances of a bite mark.
Bite marks are an important and sometimes controversial aspect of forensic odontology. The discipline has recently received considerable attention in the media and in scientific realms. Although there are many cases in which bite mark evidence has been critical to the conviction or exoneration of criminal defendants, there is continuing dispute over its interpretation and analysis. This article explores the legal and scientific basis of bite mark evidence.
This article presents a discussion of the scientific basis for human bitemark analyses. Using a review of the literature, the major areas of contention within the field are assessed: including the accuracy of bitemarks on skin, the uniqueness of the human dentition, and analytical techniques. The review revealed a lack of valid evidence to support many of the assumptions made by forensic dentists during bitemark comparisons. The new level of judicial scrutiny of such scientific evidence is likely to emphasise this lack of knowledge upon which bitemark analysis relies. The authors call for a more scientific and evidence-based approach to forensic dental research.
The dental literature concerning bitemark methodology is surprisingly thin and sorely lacking in rigorous scientific testing. Contra to this fact, the bitemark legal caselaw is surprisingly strong and is used as a substitute for reliability testing of bite mark identification. In short, the Judiciary and the Prosecutors have loved forensic odontologists. This paper will focus on the author's participation as a Defense expert over the last seven years in over 50 bitemark prosecutions and judicial appeals. This sampling will act as an anecdotal survey of actual bitemark evidence. Certain trends regarding methods and reliability issues of odontologists will be discussed. Several of these cases have been later judicially overturned due to DNA analyses after the defendants were originally convicted. These diagnostic misadventures are being vocally discussed in the US media by news and legal investigators who are asking hard questions. The forensic dentistry community, however, is curiously silent. What actions are necessary by the profession to improve this assault on the 52-year tradition of bite mark identifications in the United States?