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The Process of Forensic Dentistry

July 23, 2013

A general dentist based in New York City, Dr. Adam K. Smith has led a busy private practice for 30 years. Trained at the New York University College of Dentistry, Adam K. Smith stands out as the first dental student to complete the Armed Forces Institute’s forensic dentistry course.

Characterized by the identification of dental records, forensic dentistry serves two purposes: it helps officials determine the identity of someone who has died, and it assists in the identification of crime suspects. In the case of post-mortem identification, forensic dentists thoroughly examine each tooth and compare their findings with the dental records of suspected matches.

In the absence of dental records, however, forensic dentists may search for notable characteristics such as crowns or missing teeth, which can help loved ones make a positive identification. As a further resource for identification, forensic dentists may extract DNA from the pulp of the tooth (assuming the pulp remains undamaged by fire or other causes of death).

Identifying crime suspects by dental records usually involves examining bite marks left by the perpetrator. Once the bite is confirmed as being from a human, investigators take DNA samples of the area to obtain trace amounts of saliva. Forensic dentists then measure and photograph the bite mark. These findings are then compared to a mold of the suspect’s teeth, which must be obtained under warrant.


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