Volume 48, Issue 6 (November 2003)
The Reliability of Digitized Radiographs for Dental Identification: A Web-Based Study
In the era of Daubert and other judicial rulings pertaining to the acceptability of forensic evidence, it is increasingly important that experts are able to testify that their methods have been scientifically tested and that error rates and other factors relating to reliability have been published. The purpose of this study was to determine the reliability of digitized radiographic comparisons for the purposes of dental identification. Participants with various forensic backgrounds and experience levels were passively recruited to the website. Ten forensic identification cases composed of antemortem and postmortem dental radiographs were supplied to examiners using a bespoke website. Participants responded to the cases on two occasions after a one-month washout interval using the ABFO conclusion levels for forensic identifications. A total of 115 first attempts and 87 matched second attempts were received. Of the total responses, 72% were dentally trained respondents who had completed at least one forensic identification case; of these, 38% were experienced forensic dentists who had completed more than 25 identifications. Data relating to accuracy, intra- and inter-examiner agreement, and the effect of case difficulty are presented. Mean accuracy was 85.5% for all cases, with the experienced forensic dentists obtaining a 91% success rate. The inter-examiner agreement on the negative identification cases was classified as poor. The data suggest that dental identifications resulting from the comparison of postmortem and antemortem radiographs are valid, accurate, and reliable when undertaken by experienced odontologists.