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Forensic Dentistry- Purpose and Scope

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Forensic dentistry involves the complex application of dental sciences in the identification of deceased individuals. Read the article to know further.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Chithranjali Ravichandran

Published At June 6, 2022
Reviewed AtAugust 4, 2023

Introduction:

Forensic dentistry or also known as odontology is the forensic discipline of dentistry that is the main presentation of dental evidence for legal proceedings in the interest of justice and also includes the evaluation and management of dental evidence of the victim. Either for identifying missing individuals, human remains, or victims of accidents, fatalities or natural disaster victims. The collection and management of dental evidence records are by primary comparison of the identified victim's dentition and structures with those of dental records of known individuals to the victim. In the field of forensic dentistry, the dentists' role is to have a multi-interdisciplinary approach alongside teamwork with the toxicologist, pathologist, anthropologist, criminologist, and law enforcement officials involved in an ongoing case.

What Is the History and Recent Updates Behind Forensic Dentistry?

This field deals with the study or identification of the victim or investigation of a crime or for postmortem evaluation both through the comparison of ante- and postmortem records. The history dates back to AD 66, and to the current date, dental identification has proved of pivotal importance in identifying deceased individuals.

The first case of forensic dentistry dates back to the law in the year 1849, whereas in the 21st century, the current science now perceived in the arena of forensic odontology has evolved with the assistance of forensic medicine. But forensic medicine, however, is still in its infancy in many developing countries. This is because not many institutions are capable of offering formal training in this field of forensic odontology. Also, the lack of potential job opportunities for qualified forensic odontologists or dentists even who have obtained degrees abroad can deter many surgeons from delving or practicing in this field of forensic dentistry even after research and formal education in the same.

Forensic dentistry includes the assessment of the dental age of an individual by using certain biochemical methods to assess the age of oral tissues. Also, the dental DNA of an individual is unique, which offers the forensic dentist a perspective on the identification of an individual after DNA sampling. The patterns left by the teeth can also be evaluated (bite marks) that have geometric form and characteristic consistent with an individual, especially if the dental surgeon possesses records of the patient.

What Is the Role of the Forensic Dentist?

Dentistry has so much to offer in the field of law enforcement for both the detection and solutions of any crime or in general civil proceedings. Forensic dentistry is hence a science that fundamentally requires the dentist to process and coordinate with specialists of interdisciplinary spheres involved in solving a criminal case. Most often, the role of the forensic odontologist is to establish a person's identity. Teeth or our human dentition with its physiologic variations, pathogenesis through a lifetime along with the effects of therapeutic and altered state because of dental treatment strategies hence create a record of information that not only remains throughout life but also beyond. The teeth are used not only as weapons in such situations of crime but also under certain circumstances. They may provide us with adequate depth and information into the biter's identity.

Forensic odontology is hence a specialty field involving a specific interdisciplinary team who plays an important role in recognition of abuse and crime or in the assessment of antemortem and postmortem records among persons of all ages. Dental professionals hence have a major role to play in not only maintaining accurate dental records but also in providing the necessary information so that legal authorities may be cognizant and can curb malpractice, negligence, fraud, or abuse, and also help identify the victim or the attacker.

Why Are Dental Records Important?

In the case of human dentition, which never remains primarily static and it undergoes a number of physiological changes through an individual's lifetime. This is especially true because our deciduous teeth exfoliate completely before paving the way for the eruption of all the permanent teeth and the complete development of dentoalveolar structures. Teeth are also continuously subject to either local or the systemic manifestations of an individual, hence the alteration of dental structures either due to periodontal disease, jaw disease, cancers, predisposing systemic conditions altering the gingival and dental health of an individual over time, and restorative implant structures in the lifespan of an individual also makes the dentition and the jaw assessment a non-static subject continuously prone to changes in most individuals. To avoid this confusion regarding record analysis, hence in a modern-day dental practice, dental surgeons are encouraged for medicolegal reasons as well to document the dental anomalies of the individual, treatment strategy employed, and also documentation of missing teeth along with radiographic dental records either in written or photographic form can be of paramount success in the field of forensic odontology. If documentation is done by the dentist, then the dental comparison between antemortem and postmortem records will provide maximum information needed for legal and criminal analysis.

What Is the Scope of Forensic Odontology?

The three major areas or the scope in these three specific examinations currently in forensic odontology are of crucial importance in forensic assessment.

  • The examination or evaluation of injuries to the teeth, jaws, or the oral tissues that may be resulting from various causes either like abuse, assault, mass disasters or injuries of or from a crime.

  • The examination of marks on the individual with a view for the purpose of subsequent elimination or possible identification of the suspect as the perpetrator in a crime;

  • The examination of dental remains of a dead individual that would be either in a fragmentary form or complete form including the assessment of all types of dental restorations from unknown persons or bodies. This examination is done with a view specifically to penetrate the possible identification of the victim.

Conclusion:

To conclude, forensic odontology is an evolving science in the greater field of dentistry and is of crucial importance, scope, and purpose in finding a solution for law enforcement, action, and individual identification. Forensic odontology, which primarily deals with the proper handling and examination of dental evidence, is thus simultaneously associated with the proper evaluation and presentation of dental findings in the interest of justice. The goal of a forensic odontologist is to assist the legal authorities by examining dental evidence in different situations irrespective of the complexity.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Can Forensic Dentistry Be Done After BDS?

It is necessary to pass BDS from a recognized college or university in order to do forensic dentistry. The candidate should also qualify for the MDS Neet exam. It can be a master's in science or a master's in dentistry, with forensic dentistry as the specialization.

2.

What Function Does Forensic Dentistry Serve?

Fieldwork in forensic dentistry would require interdisciplinary knowledge of dental science. Most of the time, their main role would be to establish a person’s identity based on the oral specimens available. It can also help to know about the age and sex of a criminal involved in a crime.

3.

What Is the Scope of Forensic Dentistry?

Yes, forensic dentistry is an upcoming branch that promises a good career option. It is the art and science of dentistry that deals with identifying a person for the purpose of the law. The term forensic is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘before the forum.’

4.

How to Become a Forensic Odontologist?

It is necessary to complete a BSc.(Bachelor in Science) or BDS (Bachelor in Dentistry) from a recognized college with an aggregate of 55 percent to do a course in forensic dentistry. Qualifying for the MDS NEET exam is another requirement.

5.

Do Forensic Dentists Work Anywhere?

A forensic dentist can work for insurance companies, state or local governments, or legal firms. They can also choose to work in a regular clinical practice if they wish. They play an important role in identifying a missing person, disaster recovery, and solving crimes.

6.

How Numerous Are Forensic Dentists?

About ten qualified forensic dentists are present in India, according to recent surveys. Forensic dentistry is a distinguished branch of dentistry.  It deals with identifying a person for the purpose of the law. They have an important role in identifying a missing person, disaster recovery, and solving crimes.

7.

Is Forensic Dentistry a Worthwhile Career?

Forensic odontology is a good career option with promising opportunities. But it can also be stressful and challenging as well.  It is a branch of dentistry that deals with identifying a person for the purpose of the law. They have an important role in identifying a missing person, disaster recovery, and solving crimes.

8.

What Advantages Do Forensic Odontologists Have?

Forensic odontologists play an important role in identifying a dead person, especially if the face is involved. This is based on the fact that the teeth are the strongest substance that cannot be destroyed by fire or chemicals.

9.

What Does It Mean By Forensic Odontology After BDS?

A Master in Dental Sciences (MDS) in forensic dentistry can be done to become a forensic dentist after BDS.  It is a branch of dentistry that deals with identifying a person by assessing the unique structures in the oral cavity. They have an important role in disaster recovery, identifying a missing person, and solving crimes.
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Dentistry

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