For a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer defending an individual accused of murder, the dental records of the alleged victim may play a critical role in the outcome of the case. Forensic dentistry, or odontology, is the scientific study of teeth and bitemarks. Forensic odontologists may be able to assist in establishing the identity of skeletal remains or a decomposing or otherwise unidentifiable body. By using dental records, or other clues from the scene or the teeth themselves, a forensic odontologist may be able to positively match a skeleton to a person. Forensic odontologists are also commonly used in identifying victims of mass disasters and assisting in missing person cases.
Criminal Lawyer Explains: Dental Evidence
Forensic odontology can prove indispensible in solving homicides, murders, and assaults. After all, it would be extremely difficult for investigators to solve a murder case without the identity of the victim. From examining the teeth, a forensic odontologist will be able to identify the race, age, diet, habits and, perhaps, even the person’s socio-economic standing.
It can be so critically important to preserve dental evidence when unearthing, examining, or removing a body that the American Board of Forensic Odontology’s has created guidelines for recording dental evidence and evaluating bitemarks. The guidelines include recommended evidence collection tools, proper storage and preservation techniques, and electronic database protocols for antemortem and postmortem comparisons. Online dental record databases have proven to be an invaluable tool for forensic odontologists seeking to identify a body.
Forensic Odontology also includes the study of bitemarks. Bitemarks are common in assault and sexual assault cases. By carefully examining a bitemark, a forensic odontologist may be able to match bitemark characteristics to the suspected perpetrator’s teeth. While the American Board of Forensic Odontology is attempting to establish bitemark evidence collection protocols, preservation of such injuries is likely to remain elusive. Human skin varies in its flexibility, elasticity and resistance to puncture. During the bite, the skin is likely stretched to some degree. Teeth may puncture or only tear skin. Following the bite, the skin returns, at least to some extent, to its original shape, thereby obscuring the bitemark characteristics. Moreover, the victim, her friends or family, emergency medical responders, or hospital staff will reshape or alter the wound lineamentsas they treat, disinfect, or suture it. For an odontologist, reliably matching a wound to a suspect’s teeth will remain a formidable task.