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The Use of Dental Evidence in Criminal Investigations

Posted on 9/25/2023 by Nancy Shiba DDS
The Use of Dental Evidence in Criminal InvestigationsTeeth can reveal clues that help crack criminal cases. Dental evidence has become an increasingly useful tool for investigators seeking to identify unknown remains or link suspects to crimes.

Unique Dental Traits Help Identify Remains and Suspects

Teeth have unique traits, much like fingerprints. Their shape, dental work, and wear patterns can distinguish individuals when DNA or records are unavailable. Forensic odontologists analyze these features of the mouth and teeth to uncover identities and connections.

Dental Evidence Links Serial Killers to Crime Scenes

One landmark case involved a notorious serial killer. The killer had unusual teeth due to a dental disorder. An odontologist matched the peculiar bite marks from the killer to impressions left on a victim, providing pivotal evidence, and linking the killer to the crime scene.

Closing Missing Persons Cases Through Dental Records

Dental analyses have also brought resolution to missing person cases. In one instance, a woman's remains went unidentified for years. However, examiners matched her distinctive tooth gap to pictures of a missing juvenile from over a decade prior, allowing her family closure.

New Technologies Expand Applications

New technologies are expanding applications of dental forensics. Ultraviolet and infrared lights can uncover otherwise invisible wounds inflicted through biting. Scanning electron microscopes detect tiny scratches in tooth enamel that tie victims to suspects via bite marks.

DNA Testing Provides Definitive Connections

DNA testing of saliva from bite wounds provides definitive genetic connections. The dental pulp inside teeth also contains DNA that scientists can now extract and sequence rapidly using advanced methods.

Modern Tools Validate Dental Forensics

While bite mark analysis remains controversial due to past unreliable techniques, today's precise tools validate modern dental forensics. Properly collected transfer DNA and other evidence ensure accuracy.

As methods advance, teeth will expose ever more clues. Dental forensics proves an invaluable ally for investigators assembling often complex puzzles, one tooth at a time. A careful analysis provides insight into where other leads fail, bringing answers to mysteries and justice to victims.

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Nancy Shiba, DDS, 125 N Jackson Ave, Suite 103, San Jose, CA 95116-1914 • (669) 306-7669 • • 4/20/2024