Volume 40, Issue 5 (September 1995)

    A Preliminary Investigation of Postmortem Tooth Loss


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    Forensic anthropologists have found a seemingly increased frequency of dismemberment cases and subsequent scattering of the elements that mandates developing unconventional methods of estimating postmortem interval. The chronological sequence in postmortem tooth loss has been investigated as an indicator for estimation of time since death.

    The anterior dentitions of cadavera were observed to discern patterns in “drop time” based on age, periodontal health, seasonality and location of body placement. Individuals deposited in the summer months lost teeth much more rapidly than those deposited in the late fall or winter months. Similarly, individuals exposed to direct sunlight, a micro-environment where rapid decomposition has been noted, lost teeth before individuals in shaded locales. Since tooth loss is dependent on the deterioration of the soft tissues which bind the tooth into the alveolar bone, we found tooth loss to be correlated with general soft tissue decomposition rates as dictated by season and environment.

    When utilized as sole indicator, the patterns of postmortem tooth loss can not be used for estimating time since death. However, when used in conjunction with other indicators, tooth loss patterns may provide useful information for more accurate estimation of the postmortem interval.

    Author Information:

    McKeown, AH
    Graduate Students, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

    Bennett, JL
    Graduate Students, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

    Stock #: JFS15378J

    ISSN: 0022-1198

    DOI: 10.1520/JFS15378J

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    Title A Preliminary Investigation of Postmortem Tooth Loss
    Symposium , 0000-00-00
    Committee E30