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.
PROBLEMS IN DENTAL
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.
Illegible Dental Records
Because in many cases the dental records are
handwritten, the task of determining what treatment
has been provided can be quite difficult.
Inadequate Dental Radiographs
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.
Lack of Adequate Charting
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
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.
PRINCIPLES OF DENTAL
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.
documented in the dental record, leading to confusion
in the final analysis.
Lack of Uniformity of Charting and