Most TV shows or movies about crime scene investigations focus on a dead body lying on the ground, but forensics also includes examining victims’ teeth. The FBI states that there are 100,000 active missing people cases in the USA at any time. Forensic dentists help identify victims and criminals in order to bring peace to families’ lives.
Forensic dentists are also known as forensic odontologists. They must identify the dead by their teeth and also if victims were bitten they must determine who or what bit them.
Teeth are helpful in identifying victims because they remain when other parts of the body may get destroyed. Tooth enamel is harder than any other matter in the body, which is why even fire victims can be recognized by teeth since teeth can endure temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
No two sets of teeth are exactly alike, and different dental treatments make them even more unique. Teeth are as helpful as fingerprints or DNA evidence in establishing a body’s identity. The best way to use teeth found on an unknown body is to match them up to dental records. Even if there are only a few teeth to look at, a forensic dentist can still determine who the deceased person is.
Another part of forensic dentistry is looking at bite marks. A forensic dentist looks at bite marks to determine who or what animal bit the victim. A forensic dentist will be contacted immediately if there are bite marks, since they quickly change over time.
Dentists take measurements and pictures of each individual bite mark. The different impressions will show the dentist if the biter was missing a tooth, had a gap or chipped tooth and the dentist can compare findings to the biter’s teeth.
Some dentists who work with human remains don’t even need dental records to identify victims, but use high-tech computer technology to determine the person’s identity in only a few minutes. If there aren’t dental X-rays available then digital photographs of the teeth can be compared to smiling photos of the victim.
The FBI is creating a nationwide “high speed” dental identification system that will compare thousands of dental records in minutes. The faster the identification, the sooner the family can know about their loved one and have closure and recovery.