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Forensic Dentistry

Forensic dentistry uses extensive dental knowledge to assist both civil and criminal law enforcement by local police agencies. These dentists assist an assortment of different investigative agencies to help identify any human remains recovered. They are often asked to help determine age, occupation, race, socioeconomic status and prior dental history. Identification is often done by comparing both postmortem and ante-mortem dental records and any identifying features on dental x-rays.

Forensic dentistry involves the proper examination, handling, and evaluation of any dental evidence that will later be used to bring a perpetrator to justice. The main information derived from an individual’s teeth is age and who the teeth belong to. Another common form of evidence obtained is that of bite marks either left on the perpetrator, on the victim or on an object that was recovered from the scene of the crime. Abused children often have bite marks on them.

Essentially, a forensic dentist has six main areas of expertise that they deal with, including:

  • Identifying human remains
  • Identifying mass fatalities
  • Assessing bite mark injuries
  • Estimating age
  • Malpractice cases
  • Child, elder or spousal abuse cases

 

Countless cases over the course of time have used some form of bite marks as their key piece of evidence. Oftentimes, bite marks are found in cases that involve murder, child abuse, and sexual assault. They are a key factor in being able to convict the perpetrator. In many cases, biting is a way for the perpetrator to degrade the victim and dominate them. Bites can be found in any number of places on the body, but are often found in the fleshy tissue like the buttocks or stomach. If the victim tries to defend themselves, there is a good chance that the perpetrator will have bite marks on them.

Evidence from bite marks has long been used in identifying criminals. They can identify the perpetrator from a bite mark on the perpetrator themselves, the victim or even food recovered from the scene of the crime. After the forensic evidence is gathered, the forensic dentist will compare and analyze the bite marks.

Teeth are commonly used as a weapon of self-defense against the aggressor. Even though they are just a small part of the forensic dentist’s job, they are definitely one of the most challenging parts of the job. Not only does the location of the bite play a crucial role, but the severity of the injury can also give investigators insight into what mental state the perpetrator is in. Bite marks can also be altered from movement, stretching or environmental changes after the bite occurred.

There isn’t exactly a set of standards that one can follow to compare and analyze the bite marks. Beyond traditional criminal cases, these dental professionals are also involved in helping to identify victims after a mass disaster occurs. Dental records are one of the keys in being able to identify the victims at the scene.

Common factors affecting the bite marks include whether the soft tissue was damaged, where the mark was found at, time changes on living victims, poor impressions, poor photography and inadequate measurements. While this is definitely a more complicated procedure, bite mark analysis has helped to catch countless perpetrators and bring them to justice, as well as give a name to a victim to help put the family’s mind at rest. These individuals will always be in demand in using their skills to help change the world.

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Charlotte Dentistry®
Armstrong & Eshleman, PA

201 Providence Road
Charlotte, NC 28207
704-376-6470
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Saturday: 8am - 1pm

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