How Dental Skills Can Be Applied to Forensics

Once a person commits their life to dentistry, they are not bound to working with patients in a dental office. There are other avenues for the more adventurous students, such as forensics. If you want to assist the criminal justice system, you can go down the road of forensic dentistry, or as it is professionally known – forensic odontology. This very unique and exciting field has been proven to be vital in securing evidence for difficult cases. In forensic odontology, numerous dental skills can be applied in bringing valuable information to investigators.

These modern-day crime fighters can assist in multiple ways. Forensic dentists are responsible for handling, examining, and evaluating any dental evidence that is found on the scene of a crime. These are some of the ways in which their work can help in a case.

Help in Identifying Bodies

One of the primary duties of a dentist in forensics is helping identify a body. If investigators arrive at a crime scene and are having trouble identifying the victim, they will send the body or body part over to the dental odontologist. Since teeth are very tough, they are the only method of identifying a body if it has gone through a crash or has been exposed to the elements for a long time. Once the body is with them, the forensic dentists proceed to meticulously and methodically inspect the teeth. They will go tooth by tooth, examining and comparing cavities, procedures, crowns from the victim to the dental records, x-rays, or photos they have available from when the person was alive.

Thanks to modern technology, these records are also usually checked by computers, but it is not uncommon for some less developed areas to rely on using a pen and paper. The job requires attention to detail and careful examination, which is why only people with the proper training and certification can be an odontologist.

Examining Bite Marks

Good knowledge of dental anatomy can go a long way in examining bite marks when they are found. Teeth are a little like fingerprints, in the sense that when they fully develop, they are unique for each individual. However, it is essential to note that bite marks can be a little tricky to analyze because there are more things to factor in than just the teeth. Things like force, movement, and time passed can affect the marks. Idententations left on a still victim can differ from that of a struggling victim. When an investigator notices anything that even looks like a bite mark, forensic dentists are contacted immediately. Time is a crucial factor in getting precise and useful information, and the more time passes, the less weight the evidence carries.

These are two of the primary ways in which odontologists can assist in a crime scene investigation. There is more information that they can provide to investigators to help profile and narrow down suspects, but body identification and examining bite marks are unavoidable parts of the job.