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Forensic odontology is the practice of studying teeth and bite marks as a means of identifying human remains and collecting evidence for hospital reports and police cases.
A lot of information can be gleaned through the inspection of teeth and dental records, including identification of deceased individuals or large numbers of fatalities resulting from major accidents or disasters.
Unidentified cadavers or people who have decomposed, drowned, burnt or been disfigured beyond recognition can still be identified by forensic odontologists. DNA testing is also a reliable means of identifying a body, however, looking at and comparing teeth and dental records is still widely used and often more cost-effective.
By looking at levels of decomposition in the mouth and root cavities, odontologists can determine the amount of time that has passed since a person died and can pass this information on to the Missing Persons Bureau in order to try and find a match.
Bite marks, like fingerprints, are specific to the owner of the teeth and can be used when considering cases of assault or abuse. The approximate age of a human can also be found out through inspection of the teeth. Bite marks can be found not only on the human body, but also on inanimate objects at a crime scene. As part of their work, odontologists will usually have to take imprints of either suspects’ or victims’ teeth.
Forensic odontologists work with police, with courts of justice, coroners, pathologists and lawyers. They also work with archaeologists and anthropologists in helping to identify and gather as much information as possible on remains found at excavation sites.
They might also work on cases which don’t necessarily involve teeth or bite marks. Using their expertise and the same technology, odontologists can identify small or telling marks left by weapons.
To ensure patients are being given the best possible treatment, all dentists and dental care professionals are required by the General Dental Council to undertake a minimum of 250 hours of CPD across a five-year post-registration cycle. CPD could involve any number of activities, including attending seminars or lectures, distance or multimedia learning, private study, peer assessment or research.
Continual Professional Development covers a number of areas relevant to all dental care professionals, the three core subjects of which are dealing with medical emergencies, disinfection and radiography and radiation.
For more information about Continual Professional Development please visit the General Dental Council