Volume 44, Issue 5 (September 1999)
Self-Assessment of the Forensic Value of Dental Records
One of the most important aspects of a person's dental record may well prove to be it's potential value should the forensic dental identification of their remains become necessary. The better the quality of the antemortem dental records, the easier and faster the identification of the remains will be. The forensic dentist must be able to select identifying features by decoding the deceased's antemortem dental records. A study was conducted on two groups of dentists who were asked to self-assess the forensic dental value of the dental records maintained in their own practices. The three most frequently recorded identifying dental features, other than caries and restorations, were the presence of diastemas, displaced or rotated teeth, and dental anomalies. Surveyed dentists imbedded identifying information into the removable prosthetic devices fabricated for their patients an average of only 64% of the time. Only 56% of the two groups combined felt that their dental chartings and written records would be extremely useful in dental identifications. It is concluded that the quality of antemortem dental records available for comparison to postmortem remains varies from inadequate to extremely useful. Practicing dentists can become valuable members of the dental identification process by developing and maintaining standards of record keeping which would be valuable in restoring their patients' identity.