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Forensic dentistry is one of the most valuable investigative tools available today to link crime suspects with their victims. With several high-profile missing persons cases in the news today, forensic dentistry is gaining importance and attention as investigators attempt to piece together several yet-unsolved puzzles.
"From using bite-mark analysis to prove your neighbor's dog bit your child to the extreme cases of identifying bodies, forensic dentistry is an important part of dentistry," said R. Tom Glass, DDS, PhD, a leading expert in the field of forensic dentistry.
Teeth provide investigators and forensic experts with an excellent resource for identifying people involved in catastrophic situations and missing persons cases. The protective qualities of the human tooth keep the inner pulp – where DNA is stored – safe and can preserve this tissue, even under the most extreme external conditions.
"Without dental records and the expert analysis provided by dentists, an incomplete picture would be painted in criminal and civil investigations, as well as in body identification," said Dr. Glass. "Forensic dentistry can provide the verification needed to achieve legal justice, while providing emotional closure to those involved."
In catastrophic cases, a dentist can help officials identify victims when no other identifiers are available. Dr. Glass played a leading role in identifying a large percentage of the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing disaster. Without proper identification of these victims, Timothy McVeigh would not have been convicted of their murders.
"The importance of maintaining accurate and up-to-date dental records cannot be underscored enough," said Dr. Glass. "Without the benefit of accurate dental records, countless court cases and criminal investigations would flounder, leaving little recourse to those affected."
Reviewed: January 2012
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