Mmmmm and ahhhh …. Then all of a sudden, screams of pain and horrifying injustice pierce the quiet morning air! Your quiet time with a delicious cup of your favorite brew has come to an abrupt end. What has happened? Your son bit his sister! And as Mom you must investigate the scene of the “crime.” You don’t necessarily need to apply the dental science of forensic odontology, but you do need to get to the bottom of your kids’ skirmish nonetheless.
What is Forensic Odontology?
Forensic odontology is a branch of forensic science. It uses scientific methods as they relate to the teeth and jaw to identify unknown deceased individuals. This dental science analyzes the features of the dental structure of a deceased individual because it is unique to no one else but them. Forensic odontology also analyzes bite marks.
Sometimes a body can’t be identified because of advanced decomposition or breakdown. Fingerprints or other ways used to identify a body won’t work. So many turn to forensic dentists to identify victims.
Forensic odontologists study dental anatomy and interpret radiographs, pathology, dental materials, and developmental abnormalities to determine identities of victims. Because teeth are so strong, odontologists can use them to identify the deceased even when the body has been destroyed.
What Does a Forensic Odontologist Do?
A forensic odontologist is a forensic dentist, a medical professional trained in odontology. They use physical and biological evidence to solve medicolegal problems and record their findings in very detailed reports. The very important role of a forensic odontologist includes:
- Identifying human remains from crime scenes and after major catastrophes (terrorist activities, natural disasters, airplane crashes). For example, forensic dentists helped to identify victims of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, attacks on the World Trade Center, and the crashes of Pan Am Flight 103 and American Airlines Flight 587.
- Working in autopsy rooms with coroners or medical examiners to chart dental and cranial features of unknown human remains. They also use digital imaging and x-ray documentation when examining humans postmortem (after someone has died).
- Providing expert testimony in criminal hearings
- Investigating violent crimes, such as assault, rape, and homicide. Victims of such horrible crimes are often bitten during an attack. Forensic dentists analyze bite marks and collect saliva for DNA profiling and matching as was done in the trial of Ted Bundy.
- Analyzing dental injuries of children, adults, and the elderly who have been physically abused or neglected
When did Odontology Become a Branch of Forensic Science?
The American Board of Forensic Odontology was created in 1976. That’s how important odontology is to convicting criminals and identifying missing persons.
Does the Science of Forensic Odontology Interest You?
The great need science has for all that forensic dentists do brings admiration and intrigue to the role. But this important job requires a strong desire to help and sadly, a lot of intestinal fortitude. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a forensic odontologist, you must:
- Possess a Doctor of Dental Science (DDS) degree
- Achieve training specific to the field of forensic science
The need for forensic odontology is great. But with a desire to see justice served and closure brought to victims’ families along with a lot of specialized training, you can be a forensic dentist. What a truly admirable calling.
And Mom, we’re sorry about Junior biting his sister. Wash your hands with warm soapy water. If your little girl’s wound is bleeding, apply pressure with a clean cloth until the bleeding is under control. Then, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Apply a little antibiotic ointment and cover with a clean bandage.
For all your dental care needs, call Davis Dental at (307) 634-3488.
Quality Dental Care for Your Whole Family
3249 Sparks Road
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm