Good teeth are so important to a good healthy life. They can supply us with a warm smile and the ability to chew our food. For some people, their teeth even serve as an extra hand or as a tool. But for some people, their teeth are a weapon and can be used to hurt or even aid in murder.
Teeth can reveal so much about an individual like their identity, age and history. Bite marks can even reveal a person’s attacker or at the very least the abuse done to an individual. Forensic Odontology aids the criminal justice system in uncovering such egregious acts.
Purpose of Forensic Odontology
Forensic Odontology helps to uncover the role a person’s teeth and dental records have played in a potential or active crime investigation. The word forensic is a reference to Latin for fitness for court and litigation. The word odontology is the study of dentistry. The marriage of the two fields of study often brings to the table incontrovertible evidence of a crime.
The evaluation, assessment and opinion of bite marks alone can lead to a conviction in sexual assault, murder and child abuse cases. Not only can a forensic odontologist asses bite marks on a victim, but they can also locate them on the perpetrator. This is evidence of a struggle and proof of involvement with the victim.
History of Forensic Odontology
There are cases in legal history that support the effectiveness of forensic odontology and deny its effectiveness by leading to a wrongful conviction. This can be the case for any forensic science, so it has been treated with ever increasing regulation and standardization over the years.
Forensic odontology has been in the forefront of legal investigations from as early as 1692 at the times of the Salem witch trials all the way into our current justice system.
Science Behind Forensic Odontology
The science of Forensic Odontology centers around several core responsibilities that must be attended to like the assessment of abuse cases of any age of an individual and malpractice cases. They also asses bite mark injuries, estimate age and identify human remains if found and unclaimed or unidentifiable.
With the proper evaluation of a crime scene and evidence, the forensic odontological professional will be able to distinguish a lot of information from an actual victim and perpetrator. The investigator will use tools like dental records prior to death. They will also use DNA information and post-mortem radiographs.
Often times dental impressions will be made on a victim with bite marks. They are then matched up with the suspects dental impressions to prove guilt. In the field of forensic odontology it is typical to create something called a dental lineup where multiple impressions of a person’s teeth are compiled together. In criminal cases, this is necessary to ensure accuracy.
Age evaluation is a vital part of forensic odontology because it can aid in victim identification. This is often done by evaluating the teeth how they have erupted from the gums over time. It is also done by evaluating tooth wear and tissue that has mineralized.
The field of dentistry takes on a whole new dimension when used in conjunction with investigative techniques. The forensic odontology report can really give an investigation the teeth it needs for a conviction, or at least the evidence to support the criminal case.