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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 32-37

Forensic odontology – Are the dentists really aware

1 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, College of Dental of Dental Sciences BBD University, Lucknow, India
2 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Teerthanker Mahaveer Dental College and Research Centre, Teerthanker Mahaveer University, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Emergency Medicine and Trauma Care, Medanta, Lucknow, India
4 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, School of Dentistry, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
5 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Content Strategist, RELX India Pvt. Ltd, Gurgaon, India

Date of Submission17-Mar-2021
Date of Acceptance19-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Nidhi Sinha
Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, College of Dental of Dental Sciences BBD University, Lucknow
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijfo.ijfo_6_21

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Introduction: Dentistry has much to propose to law enforcement agencies in the detection and solution of the crime. The use of teeth is the most common retractile action of self-defense against any personal attack. Hence, it is the call of the hour for dental practitioners to obligate sound knowledge about forensic odontology and its judicial applications. It is the responsibility of each and every dentist to maintain dental records for identification in the event of child and adult abuse, and mass disasters.
Aims and Objectives: The present study was undertaken to analyze and assess the awareness about forensic odontology among practicing dentists in Moradabad.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among 250 dental surgeons of Moradabad and data were collected via means of questionnaires.
Result: The overall result revealed inadequate knowledge about forensic odontology among the practitioners.
Conclusion: The experts in different fields of dentistry have scarce or no idea regarding the contribution of their specialization in the field of forensic dentistry. This calls for greater knowledge and awareness among the practitioners and experts to necessitated the same.

Keywords: Dental practitioners, identification, mass disasters

How to cite this article:
Sinha N, Nayak MT, Dawar G, Srivastava S, Swarup N, Gupta S. Forensic odontology – Are the dentists really aware. Int J Forensic Odontol 2021;6:32-7

How to cite this URL:
Sinha N, Nayak MT, Dawar G, Srivastava S, Swarup N, Gupta S. Forensic odontology – Are the dentists really aware. Int J Forensic Odontol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 9];6:32-7. Available from: https://www.ijofo.org/text.asp?2021/6/1/32/320338

  Introduction Top

A boom in telecommunication and information technology (teledentistry), etc., is the gift of the new millennium to the humankind which has brought a revolution in our lives. However, modernization is a double-ended sword as it brings avenues of terrorism, increased crime rate, and natural disasters.[1] Identification of victims in mass disasters (aviation, earthquakes, and Tsunamis) and the criminals in medico-legal cases is one of the most challenging subjects that human has been confronted with.[2] The forensic discipline in conjunction with science and technology aids in the investigation and detection of crime and enforcement of justice, with the help of a multidisciplinary team.[3] Dental identification dates back to AD 66, and it renders a crucial role in solving civil and criminal cases.[4] According to Dr. Oscar Amoedo (father of forensic odontology), the first case of dental identification in a mass disaster was after the fire at the charity bazaar in Paris, during the year 1897 in which 126 lives were lost. Here, antemortem dental records were compared with postmortem dental records for identification of the dead. Jai Chand, the Raja of Kanauj, was murdered by Muhammad Ghori in the Battle of Chandawar in 1193 and was later identified by his false teeth after being found among the slain in the battlefield, and this was the first evident forensic odontology case in India. The most remembered case of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister, who was killed by a human suicide bomber, was solved in the year 1991 by identification of his dentition. Recently, forensic odontologist, Dr. Ashish B Acharya, helped in solving the December 16, 2012, Delhi gang-rape case with bite mark analysis.[5] The fundamental principles of dental identification are those of comparison and of exclusion. This principle is applicable in the identification of skeletonized, decomposed, burned, or dismembered body and identification of the accused in child and adult abuse. Unfortunately, dentists often maintain poor or no records, resulting in the confusion that makes dental identification impossible.[6] Keeping this in mind, the aim and objective of the present study were to scrutinize and assess the awareness about forensic odontology among practicing dentists in Moradabad.

  Materials and Methods Top

  1. The survey was conducted in the year 2014 among 150 dentists of Moradabad which included 42 academicians, 80 postgraduate students, and 28 clinicians
  2. Questionnaires.

A cross-sectional study was conducted in a sample of 250 dental practitioners in Moradabad and data were collected via the means of questionnaires. The questions were of open-ended and close-ended types [Table 1].
Table 1: Questionnaires used in dentistry

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The questions were designed keeping in mind the cases they can encounter on a daily basis and their approach through forensic dentistry knowledge in solving and extending their contribution in civil and criminal cases. The questions were framed to asses KAP criteria.

  Results Top

[Table 2] reveals the overall result depicting inadequate knowledge about forensic dentistry among the practitioners in Moradabad.
Table 2: Overall results

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  Discussion Top

Every human being deserves an identity, and nothing as unique as dentistry can identify a person during his/her life and even after death.[7] The word forensic is derived from the Latin word forum which means “Court of Law” and odontology means “study of teeth.” Forensic odontology is defined by the Federation Dentaire International as “that branch of dentistry which, in the interest of justice, deals with proper handling and examination of dental evidence, and with the proper evaluation and presentation of dental findings. Identity as defined by Acharya and Taylor is “the characteristic by which a person may be recognized.”[8] Forensic odontology covers a vast array of subjects involving identification of human remains in the cases of natural and human-made disasters; child and adult abuse via verification of gender, age, and ethnic origin; analysis of bite marks, etc.[9] Identification by means of dental evidence is only possible if the dental practitioner has adequate theoretical and practical knowledge regarding the subject.[10] Taking into consideration the importance of dental evidence, we conducted a survey among 150 dentists (42 academicians, 80 postgraduate students of various specialties, and 28 practitioners) of Moradabad to asses their awareness regarding the subject and unfortunately, our results revealed inadequate knowledge, unkempt attitude, and lack of expertise in graduates, postgraduates, and practitioners regarding the subject. The results were found to be consistent with the study conducted by Sengupta et al. in the year 2014 and Preethi et al. in the year 2011.

Dental identification plays a key role in mass casualties and is usually based on disturbances of tooth eruption, malocclusions and/or previous dental treatments, changes brought about by age, pathological conditions, and developmental disturbances.[10] Age is one of the essential factors in establishing the identity of a person.[11] However, nearly half of the practitioners did not know how to estimate the dental age by examining the teeth. The reason for this could be their negligence/lack of basic knowledge regarding the significance of dental age with regard to forensics. Cases of child abuse are on a rise and should be brought to the notice of the parents or the concerned authorities as soon as possible.[12] Reasons commonly cited for a dentist's failure to report are lack of information about the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect and obliviousness of reporting the procedure to parents and police. In the present study, the majority of the dental practitioners were aware of the importance of maintaining dental records. Surprisingly, only very few dentists maintain complete records and very few knew the duration of dental record maintenance as is a minimum of 7 years to a maximum of 10 years.[10] This study clearly exhibits that there is a general lack of skill and understanding of forensic odontology among dentists.

Thus, the forensic dentist must be proficient in both forensic dentistry and the law. Regardless of background, dentists should assist legal authorities by preparing dental evidence in the following situations:[13]

  • Managing and maintaining dental records which can help in reducing the potential for malpractice
  • Comparing antemortem and postmortem dental data in the cases of death of an individual or mass disasters
  • Identifying signs and symptoms of child and adult abuse
  • Presentation of dental evidences as an expert witness for the purpose of identification.

The current scenario amplifies the need of forensic dentistry owing to an increase in crime rate and human-made disasters. Such incidences can mutilate the body beyond comprehension such that identification is not possible and hence the essentials of human dentition come into play. In such instances, well-maintained dental records are of paramount help. Thus, a working classification has been proposed by Shamim involving the role of various specialties to aid in identification[14],[15] [Table 3].
Table 3: Dental specialties with their subject contribution in the field of forensic odontology

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Although the regulatory bodies of dentistry such as DCI and the government is conducting continued dental education programs (CDEs) and national/international conferences on forensic odontology, still lack of interest in attending such programs is seen among dental practitioners.[16] This could be due to multiple reasons namely lack of institutions offering formal training in forensic odontology, unavailability of fully equipped labs for attaining sound practical knowledge, and lack of care.

  Conclusion Top

Forensic dentistry plays a major role in the identification of those individuals who can not be identified visually or by other means. This is where the uniqueness of human dentition comes into play as it is comparable to the exclusivity of fingerprints. Well-maintained dental records can provide resolution to such situations. This can only be achieved by offering formal training in the pursuit of collecting, evaluating, and presenting dental evidences. The call of the hour is to realize the importance of this field to us and the judicial system; hence, a lot of effort needs to be made from our side to prevent forensic dentistry from dying a slow death.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Jurel SK. Role of dentist in forensic investigations. J Forensic Res 2012;3:148.  Back to cited text no. 1
Jeddy N, Ravi S, Radhika T. Current trends in forensic odontology. J Forensic Dent Sci 2017;9:115-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
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Saxena S, Sharma P, Gupta N. Experimental studies of forensic odontology to aid in the identification process. J Forensic Dent Sci 2010;2:69-76.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Chandra Shekar BR, Reddy CV. Role of dentist in person identification. Indian J Dent Res 2009;20:356-60.  Back to cited text no. 4
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Pandey A. Role and responsibility of dentist as forensic odontologist. JK Pract 2012;17:80-2.  Back to cited text no. 6
Senn DR, Paul G. Forensic Dentistry. 2nd ed. US Florida: Stimson; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 7
Rajendran R, Sivapathasundharam B. Shafer's Textbook of Oral Pathology. 6th ed. India: Elsevier Pub; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 8
Baig MZ, Awareness and compliance about forensic dentistry among dental professionals of twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad: a questionnaire based study, Pak. Oral Dent. J. 2014;34:277-80.  Back to cited text no. 9
Preethi S, Einstein A, Sivapathasundharam B. Awareness of forensic odontology among dental practitioners in Chennai: A knowledge, attitude, practice study. J Forensic Dent Sci 2011;3:63-6.  Back to cited text no. 10
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Singh A, Gorea RK, Singla U. Age estimation from the physiological changes of teeth. J Indian Acad Forensic Med 2004;26:94-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
Babar MG. Essential guidelines for forensic odontology. Pak Oral Dent J 2007;27:79-84.  Back to cited text no. 12
Neville B, Damm DD, Allen C, Bouquot J. Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. 3rd ed. US: Elsevier; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 13
Shamim T. A new working classification proposed for forensic odontology. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak 2011;21:59-60.  Back to cited text no. 14
Shamim T. Oral pathology in forensic investigation. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent 2018;8:1-5.  Back to cited text no. 15
Singh NN, Gowhar O, Ain TS, Sultan S. Exploring trends in forensic odontology. J Clin Diagn Res 2014;8:ZC28-30.  Back to cited text no. 16


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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