Forensic dentistry is the proper handling, examination and evaluation of dental evidence, which will be then presented in the interest of justice. Dental forensics is an important part of crime scene investigations, wars, accidents, disaster situations, and other events including identification techniques for legal matters are needed. Forensic dentists have two different tasks: to identify the dead by their teeth and to determine who (or what) did the biting when bite marks are found.
DNA found in saliva, blood, or human tissue is unique for each individual. But teeth and bite marks from teeth can identify an individual as well. This is because the arrangement and condition of an individual’s teeth are unique including:
- Missing teeth
- Height or shape of teeth and roots
- Problems with teeth such as chips and cracks
- Restorations of teeth, such as fillings, crowns, bridges and dentures
There have been many cases which have made use of bite marks as evidence. Bite marks are usually seen in cases involving sexual assault, murder, and child abuse and they can be a major factor in leading to a conviction. Biting is often a sign of the perpetrator seeking to degrade the victim while also achieving complete domination. Although bite mark analysis remains controversial because the accuracy of a bite marks on skin is inaccurate at best and because dental profiles are subject to change, currently there is much research being undertaken to prove that the shape of every human’s arrangement of teeth is unique.
Identification of people decease is one of the most important aspects in forensic dentistry. There is no database of teeth that corresponds with databases of finger prints or DNA, so dental records are how forensic dentists identify the dead. Forensic dentists often examine x-rays, photographs, dental charts, bleaching trays and other dental records as part of the investigation.
The tooth enamel (outer layer of teeth) is harder than any other substance in the human body, which is why teeth remain long after all parts have decayed. The tooth enamel is the second hardest materials in nature after diamonds. Victims of fires are often identified by their teeth, which can withstand temperatures of more than 2000 degrees Fahrenheit (1093 degrees Celsius). Teeth that have been through intense heat are very fragile and may shrink, but they can be preserved with lacquer and used for identification as long as they are handled very carefully.