Barsley, Robert E. School of Dentistry, Oral Health Resources, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Senn, David R. Center for Education and Research in Forensics, School of Dentistry, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas.
Last reviewed:October 2020
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The use of dental knowledge in the judicial process. Forensic dentistry, or forensic odontology, is best known for its usefulness in linking an identifying name to unknown human remains (Fig. 1). This may be accomplished in single instances, such as when a body is discovered along a lake or river shore, with the person having presumably drowned. Alternatively, more than one victim may be involved, such as in a house fire or an automobile accident. In some cases, referred to as multiple-fatality incidents (or mass fatalities or disaster victim identification), large numbers of deceased individuals may require identification. Recent examples include Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake and tsunami in 2004, the World Trade Center attack in 2001, and any of a number of common carrier incidents, including the 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3704 in Buffalo, New York. Forensic dentists also assist in law enforcement cases involving suspected biting activity (animal or human) and in abuse cases involving head and neck injury. In addition, many forensic dentists act as expert witnesses in litigation involving professional liability claims against dentists and in personal injury cases involving the jaws or other oral structures.
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