forensic odontology

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Copyright forensic medicine resources 2007. All rights reserved.

Forensic odontology is a specialist branch of dentistry, concerned with the application of dental techniques to attempt to answer medico-legal questions, including;

  • identification of the deceased
  • estimation of the age of the deceased at death
  • examination of possible bitemarks on a victim (alive or dead)
  • examination of the dentition of a person (or animal) suspected of inflicting a bitemark



Forensic odontologists work closely with forensic pathologists and anthropologists - their expertise is particularly beneficial in identifying a victim, whose body is decomposed or burned, precluding visual identification.

Mass-disasters present particular challenges for death investigators, and forensic odontologists are usually incorporated into the team of experts charged with identification of victims. 

Transportation incidents, such as plane crashes may be slightly more 'straight forward' in that there is usually a passenger list with which to compare identifying characteristics with; events such as the World Trade Centre attacks of September 11th 2001 represent a greater challenge, not least because of the large number of individuals involved, but also because of the inability to accurately determine who was likely to have been there at the time of the attacks.


The action of biting an object or substance results in the formation of a bitemark, the characteristics of which can, in theory, be compared to the dentition of an individual, in order to determine whether that individual created that mark. 

This process of comparison is, however, subjective, and involves a process of identifying certain characteristics in the mark/ injury, and superimposing the suspects dentition characteristics (e.g. from an impression of their teeth) on that suspected bitemark. The accuracy of such techniques is prone to errors at several stages, and may be vigorously challenged in court.




guide to forensic odontology (british association for forensic odontology)

forensic dentistry online 

forensic dentistry (wikipedia) 

identification guidelines (american board of forensic odontology) 

disaster victim identification (interpol) 

british association for human identification

digital dental chart sample

tooth morphology guide 

online guide to bitemarks 

bitemark severity index