Teeth vary by individual, and unique features, such as fillings, dentures, and tooth eruptions, can help to identify someone postmortem. This is possible by comparing forensic data acquired through dental observations with existing dental data.
ANSI/ADA 1058-2010 (R2020) – Forensic Dental Data Set provides a standard means to convey the data acquired through forensic dental work by covering a universal terminology describing the different natural and artificial features of teeth. This is a necessity for an odontologist, who must be able to identify a variety of human remains related to teeth, even bite marks, link them to a person’s dental data, and use them as evidence in a court of law.
Evidence From Forensic Dental Data
In general, teeth can indicate a great deal of information about an individual. To narrow the possibilities of a tooth’s origin, odontologists must use dental evidence to assess the sex of the person from whom the tooth was derived. Gender is visible through a variety of morphological features on teeth, such as the angle of the mandible and lower canine. The lower permanent canine tooth is short and small in females; in males, it is long and sharp. In addition, the angle of the mandible is obtuse in females.
Additional dental features indicate the age of the individual. For children and young adults, the presence of deciduous teeth and molar development can be used to determine an approximate age. For adults, features such as tooth translucency and cementum thickness can guide an odontologist’s age estimate.
More specifically, a person’s dental history is integral to forensic dental operations as it can link the remains at a crime scene to a known person from whom those records were obtained antemortem. Some features are more overt to the observer than others are, such as a missing tooth or dentures, while others are less easy to notice. However, any of these features are likely part of the individual’s dental record, so it is essential to look for qualities like cracks, abrasions, and even drift, in which the tooth has created a significant space between it and an adjacent tooth by migrating in a distal or mesial direction.
Forensic Dental Data Standard Guidelines
Because of the variation in morphological characteristics of teeth and the ability to link those features, when discovered as forensic evidence, to the dental records of a specific individual, it is integral that there are standard procedures that simplify the comparison between postmortem and antemortem data. ANSI/ADA 1058-2010 (R2020) – Forensic Dental Data Set does this by not only covering standard terminology for the different impacts on teeth, but also by addressing the standard dental notation.
Dental notation is the method by which dental professionals associate information with a specific tooth. A system of dental notation must take a point of reference from which the teeth are counted and associate numbers with each tooth. According to ANSI/ADA 1058-2010 (R2020) – Forensic Dental Data Set, there are two acceptable standards for dental forensics: the ISO system (as specified by ISO 3950:2016), and the Universal/National System, which is the common standard in the United States, having been widely adopted by the ADA.
Forensic Dental Data for Amnesiacs
It is also important to note that the standardized terms used in the forensic dental data set are not limited to the identification of the deceased, but also help to determine the identity of amnesiacs. This, as with the dental remains of the deceased at a crime scene, is used in complement to the variety of evidence that together indicate an individual’s identity.
Forensic Accreditation By ANAB
Adhering to guidelines like the ANSI/ADA 1058-2010 (R2020) is incredibly useful for forensic professionals and organizations, but some forensic agencies choose to go further to demonstrate their credibility. To instill confidence in this sector, the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) accredits forensic service providers and forensic inspection services.
Forensic testing, calibration, and/or inspection services can be provided by numerous organizations, such as crime laboratories, law enforcement agencies, public health organizations, and environmental testing laboratories, and, as such, the disciplines for which ANAB offers forensic related accreditation are multitudinous.
You can learn more about the different ANAB forensic accreditation programs here.