Forensic Odontology

6th Sep 2022

Forensic Odontology

Odontology: It is the art and science of Study of Normal Anatomy, Structure, Development and also the study of Diseases and Abnormality of Dentition. Odontology is mainly used by Forensics as a very efficient tool in identifying the remains of bodies and in many other ways helping in Criminal Investigations.

Forensic Dentistry plays a very important role in identification of Man made or Natural Disaster Victims, which result in multiple fatalities which are made unrecognizable by conventional methods such as finger print analysis etc as the Teeth are the strongest part of the body and can withstand high pressure and heat and can be potentially un damaged even when bones are destroyed.

Father of Forensic Odontology: Oscar Amoedo – A Cuban Dentist Author of “L’Art dentaire en Medecine Legale” the first book on contemporary Forensic Odontology

With the integration of Odontology into Forensics there is a new branch in Forensics.

Forensic Odontology is the branch of dentistry which deals with the applications of Dental knowledge for Legal Cases.

    The following aspects from Dentistry are used in Forensic Odontology:

  • Identification of Dentition of an Individual
  • Identification of multiple number of people in a Mass Disaster
  • Bite Mark Analysis
  • In Malpractice identification by Dentists
  • To Elicit the Ethnicity of the lifestyle, diet and Gender of the skeletal remains.
  • Estimation of Age and Gender based on Dental Development and Size.

Basic Knowledge of the following topics is compulsory in Forensic Dentistry to identify Human remains and crimes:

Forensic odontology relies on knowledge of Teeth, Jaws, case records, Dental Anatomy, Hostology, Radiology, Dental materials and Developmental anomalies, diseases and various other conditions related to dentistry. A Portable Dental Unit is always necessary as there might be difficulty in bringing the evidence to the lab which will require us to go to the scene of crime where a portable dental unit will be very useful.


    • Primary and Permanent Dentition
    • Number of teeth in each dentition
    • Types of teeth present in each dentition
    • Size and Alignment of Teeth in each dentition
    • Root Structure of Dentition
    • Supporting Structures of Dentition
    • Structures surrounding Dention
    • Differentiation between Maxillary and Mandibular teeth


      Dental Treatments:

This plays a very important part in Forensic dentistry as it is very useful in differentiating and isolating the person based on the Pattern, Number and type of Dental treatment undergone.

Types of Dental Treatments Considered:

  • Dental Fillings – Provisional restorations, Polycarboxylate luting dental cement, light cured resin reinforced glass ionomer restorative.
  • Dental Crowns and Bridges
  • Root Canal Treated Teeth
  • Number and Location of Extracted teeth

Bite Marks analysis:

Bite marks is a technique used in identification of Suspects in Criminal cases. With the help of Bite mark impressions left on the Skin of the victim, food like apple, chewing gum etc and any other item from the scene of crime can be used to identify the culprit at some or the other stage of the criminal Case.

Bite Marks Analysis works based on the fact that Each and every dentition produces a different impression on Biting, much like our finger prints each persons bite mark is different based on orientation of teeth, Pressure exerted by each tooth and Surface contact.

Bite marks are photographed with a scale

Bite marks on skin are taken over repeated intervals

Casts of impression are made and stored for future analysis

Impression traced onto transparencies

Casts of suspects bite is also recorded and impression is traced onto Transparencies as done for the earlier evidence

Comparison between suspect’s cast and Evidence bite mark to determine the similarity.

History of Forensic Odontology:

The earliest evidence of use of Odontology in forensics was seen in 18th century.

In 1869: Reid discussed about the way he used dental characteristics to differentiate between two incinerated females. This was the first accounted case of Forensic Odontology.

In 1884 Reid published in a journal where he discussed many cases where he has identified the Age using dental science dating back as early as 1835.

A Major boost for Forensic Odontology came in 1878 – When a fire accident at the Vienna Opera house lead to death of many people who were burnt beyond recognition.

The most famous case where Dental Records were used to identify the victim was Adolf Hitler which Is one of the most high profile case where various dental records were used to confirm the identity of Hitler after his suicide. Forensic Odontology played a very important role in identifying close to 150 victims from the 9/11 terror attack victims whose bodies were badly mutilated where the traditional methods were helpless.

In 2005 Close to 1000 Tsunami Victims were identified based on Dental records. The officials used dental radiographs and also photos of victims where the teeth were visible to identify the bodies.

With the recent advancement in technology now 3D Bite mark analysis and Automatic Dental Code matching is being performed making the job a lot more precise and easier.