(Received 5 December 2002; accepted 24 November 2002)
Published Online: 2003
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The primary goal of this research is to examine the overall utility of nonradiographic dental records for the establishment of individual identifications. It was found that even without radiographic lines of comparison, charts and notes that accurately detail a missing individual's antemortem dental condition can be essential for establishing an identification. Based on an analysis of two large datasets, individual dental patterns were determined to be generally unique, or at least very uncommon. Through this type of empirical comparison, it is possible to establish a strong, quantifiable association with a missing individual. The results of this research indicate that a definitive number of points of concordance do not need to be established in dental identification cases. Each case must be assessed individually. The critical factor is to remove subjective judgment calls from dental comparisons. This research has proposed a new method of empirical comparison that allows forensic odontologists to derive objective frequency information regarding the occurrence of specific dental patterns in the general population. The method is similar to that used for mtDNA casework, and a computer program (OdontoSearch) has been developed to make the technique accessible. It was found that even a small number of common dental characteristics may produce a very rare dental pattern, a point that may be counterintuitive to many forensic odontologists.
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