Because of legal, moral and ethical considerations, any death investigation must begin with the identification of the deceased. The identification of unidentifiable human remains through dental records is a long-standing and proven forensic technique. All human identification is based on the fact that each human is considered to be unique. Dental identification appears to be one of the better methods for identifying badly burned, decomposed, skeletonized or macerated bodies. The teeth and restorative materials are relatively nonperishable, lending themselves for being compared to antemortem treatment records.


Bite marks in crimes against persons are patterned injuries produced by the teeth which can be extremely helpful in identifying the biter. The premise that the human dentition is unique to each individual is widely accepted. The function of the forensic odontologist is to attempt to collect, preserve and analyze the bite mark evidence. If properly preserved and protected, bite marks can provide an important link between the victim and assailant. It can be a critical aspect of the criminal investigation since a positive identification can establish that a suspect was at the crime scene and in violent contact with the victim.


The participation by the forensic odontologist in the legal justice system carries multiple responsibilities. Paramount is the duty to offer competent opinion which meets both the standards of judicial review and the standards of care in dentistry. The forensic odontologist's fundamental role in the judicial system is to assist the trier of fact in his search for truth. This function is primarily accomplished by education of the judge and/or jury in areas of knowledge not normally possessed by the trier of fact. It is the expert's responsibility to give an impartial opinion independent of interests held by their employers.


The value of forensic dental age estimation has increased to meet a variety of medicolegal requirements. The dental estimation of age at death greatly reduces the search possibilities in the area of missing and unidentified persons by law enforcement agencies as well as in mass fatality events. Requirements for qualification for social benefits. The determination of age of license and age of legal majority are all important in cases of contractual law, immigration and citizenship.

© Copyright 2000- Peter F. Hampl, D.D.S.All rights reserved.
Diplomate, American Board of Forensic Odontology
Retired Diplomate, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery