Forensic dentistry is the proper handling and examination of dental evidence, which is brought to justice. If the body found in a crime scene is unidentifiable, it is the forensic dentist’s job to examine possible dental evidence. It is the job of the forensic dentist to identify a dead body that is totally burnt, destroyed, or decayed. By examining the teeth as well as reviewing dental records, the forensic dentist can determine who the deceased individual is.
Forensic dentists are a very important part of investigations, disaster recovery, and solving crimes. They are the ones who investigators turn to when the cadaver is so destroyed that it seems impossible to identify it through facial features. These are usually victims who have been burned, thrown in a body of water, or have been buried dead for a long time.
Training and Education
Aspiring forensic dentists must have completed a degree in dentistry or at least have attended courses and trainings in Odontology (diseases, anatomy, and development of teeth). Since these experts are dealing with teeth and dental work, an educational background in dentistry is certainly a must. It is an advantage if candidates have attended trainings in criminalities and law enforcement.
Job Description and Tasks
The forensic dentist examines the teeth of the deceased. There are two ways in identifying dead people by their teeth. One is to compare the person’s teeth with existing dental records also known as the comparative method. The forensic dentist sees if the dental evidence matches every tooth in the record. However, this method requires the person to have visited the dentist once in his life.
If otherwise, the forensic dentist results in to the other method, which is making post-mortem dental profile. This is done when antemortem (before death) records are not available. The teeth and the remaining saliva can provide DNA evidence. However, this method can only do much as to provide information about the deceased’s race, health condition, occupation, diet and dental habits. It suggests possible characteristics of the dead to narrow down the search.
Working Conditions and Salary
Obviously, this is not your typical office desk work. You have to have the stomach to be a part of the forensic team. Working hours are flexible and irregular. A candidate should always be available on call. He should also be patient since this is a time consuming task. A forensic dentist may receive a daily wage of $2,000 or as much as $150,000 a year depending on certain conditions.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Forensic dentists work with the National Crime Information Center. They keep records of forensic dental information of missing persons. These experts are also assigned in keeping and organizing dental profiles on unidentified dead people.
No two people can have an identical set of teeth. Each tooth has a specific shape, markings, size or position. Forensic dentists provide consulting services to provide identification for a dead body. They are a vital part of criminal investigations. Thus, job opportunities will never run out in this field.