1 Department of Anthropology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
2 Department of Forensic Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore (A Constituent Institute of Manipal University), India
3 Department of Orthodontics, Dr. Harvansh Singh Judge Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
Forensic odontology is primarily concerned with the use of teeth and oral structures for identification in a legal context. Various forensic odontology techniques help in the identification of the human remains in incidents such as terrorists’ attacks, airplane, train and road accidents, fires, mass murders, and natural disasters such as tsunamis, earth quakes and floods, etc. (Disaster Victim Identification-DVI). Dental structures are the hardest and well protected structures in the body. These structures resist decomposition and high temperatures and are among the last ones to disintegrate after death. The principal basis of the dental identification lies in the fact that no two oral cavities are alike and the teeth are unique to an individual. The dental evidence of the deceased recovered from the scene of crime/occurrence is compared with the ante-mortem records for identification. Dental features such as tooth morphology, variations in shape and size, restorations, pathologies, missing tooth, wear patterns, crowding of the teeth, colour and position of the tooth, rotations and other peculiar dental anomalies give every individual a unique identity. In absence of ante-mortem dental records for comparison, the teeth can help in the determination of age, sex, race/ethnicity, habits, occupations, etc. which can give further clues regarding the identity of the individuals. This piece of writing gives an overview of dental evidence, its use in forensic identification and its limitations.
Keywords: Age estimation, bite marks, dental anomalies, forensic odontology, sex and race determination from teeth, wrongful convictions.
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