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What is Forensic Odontology?

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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Forensic odontology, also known as forensic dentistry, is the science of using dentistry for criminal justice purposes. It involves the proper collection, handling, examination, and evaluation of dental evidence. The evidence can then be used to solve crimes and convict criminals and identify human remains.

There are many uses for forensic ondontology. In cases of mass fatalities, when identifying victims may be challenging, dental records can be compared to the dental work of the victims. Dental imprints on victims of crimes can also be used to solve crimes. This is most commonly seen in cases of abuse and sexual violence. Teeth marks left on a victim can be photographed and then turned into a model of the abuser's teeth, which can then be matched to the dental records of potential suspects. The model will be created using computer technology.

Forensic odontology works on the principle that no two people have exactly the same dental imprints. Extractions, fillings, chipped, gapped, or closely spaced teeth can all be used to identify who the teeth marks are from. Some teeth may even be twisted or tilted. Even with individuals who have had their teeth straightened through the use of braces, there will be some distinctive features that can be used to identify them based on their dental work.

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The most common task in forensic odontology is to identify the deceased. If there is any question of the deceased's identity, a specialist will be called in to compare the person's most recent dental records to the teeth of the corpse. If there are no dental records available, and the remains cannot be identified, then the forensic odontologist will prepare a profile of the deceased based on their teeth. The profile may provide an approximate age, gender, socioeconomic status, and race. The dietary habits of the victim may also be identifiable, but this does not work in every case.

Paul Revere was rumored to be the first person to practice forensic odontology on a professional level, using dental records to identify the remains of soldiers during the Revolutionary War. It has been successfully used in several criminal cases, and was used to help convict Ted Bundy and Wayne Boden, amongst others. Although it is not always entirely accurate in some situations, forensic odontology is a very useful practice, and allows for the identification of human remains and criminals, who otherwise may go unknown.

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