canal, and root form provide numerous other potential points of comparison that make each set of teeth unique. Therefore, it can be said with complete confidence that, given sufficient data, no two sets of teeth are identical.
A decided advantage of dental ID over fingerprint ID is the relatively comprehensive nature of the antemortem database. An extremely high percentage of the general population has visited the dentist at some time in their life. Dentists routinely create dental records for these patients that detail the antemortem (before death) dental condition. These records are often maintained for long periods of time. Most importantly, dental radiographs are generated on almost every patient. Radiographs are hard evidence that is not subject to human error to the same extent that a written dental record might be. The radiographs also provide multiple additional potential points of comparison for establishing ID. With adequate dental records available to the forensic dentist, nearly 100% of unknown remains can be identified.
The dentist and you, the Dental Technician, may encounter many problems with dental ID. These problems can waste numerous hours or days before the final determination of ID.
Because in many cases the dental records are handwritten, the task of determining what treatment has been provided can be quite difficult.
Radiographs may not be found useful for comparison purposes for a variety of reasons. Most often this is because of poor quality of the radiograph obscuring the features necessary for comparison. It may also be because of a lack of positioning of the radiograph or absence of a date on the radiograph.
Many civilian dentists do not record the status of the dentition at the first appointment as required in the Navy. Pre-existing restorations, therefore, may not be documented in the dental record, leading to confusion in the final analysis.
Dentists might use multiple systems to record the treatment provided for a patient and to indicate which tooth was treated. Unless the forensic dental team is familiar with every possible charting and numbering system, a dental record may be unintelligible despite being legible. Luckily, most of the civilian and Navy dentists use a single system for charting and numbering teeth in the United States.
Changes in Dentition Teeth are not fixed in the jaws. Small changes in position are constantly occurring in addition to the normal functional wear produced by chewing. These changes are not distinct over a short period of time, but over an extended time period these small changes can accumulate to produce significant differences.
No matter how conscientious and persistent a dentist or Dental Technician might be about the accuracy of their dental records, errors in the written record will occur on occasion. This can cause discrepancies in the comparison and problems in establishing the ID.
The principles of dental ID are identical to those used in any other ID method. The postmortem (after death) remains are examined and documented, then the antemortem records are obtained and reviewed, and finally the two are compared to establish similarities and discrepancies. In evaluating the comparison, the forensic dental team looks first at discrepancies. Discrepancies are more important than similarities since a single discrepancy can negate a whole list of similarities. It is important for the dental team to consider the source of the discrepancy. If the discrepancy is found in the written dental record, it may be possible to explain it on the basis of human error. However, if the discrepancy is in a radiographic comparison, it is extremely difficult to ignore. Discrepancies may be classified into two broad categories, relative and absolute.Continue Reading