Public Release: 

Forensic dentistry key in identifying victims of tsunamis, other disasters

International & American Associations for Dental Research

Baltimore, Maryland...Disaster victim identification (DVI) is an intensive and demanding task involving experts from various disciplines. DVI interventions can be brought to a successful conclusion only if properly planned, involving well-trained key experts and selection of the appropriate forensic diagnostic tools.

Today, during the 83rd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, convening at the Baltimore Convention Center, a symposium, entitled "Current Concepts in Diagnostic Forensic Odontology", will feature presentations, by experts from Canada and Belgium, on "Forensic identification of victims of mass casualty incidents", "The dentist as a member of the disaster victim identification team--The Interpol DVI interdisciplinary philosophy", and "Facial reconstruction based on 3-D craniofacial reconstruction and in vivo soft-tissue depth registration".

As a key member of the identification team, the forensic odontologist takes an active part in all phases of the identification process. Modern disaster scenarios may include more destruction, fragmentation, and mingling of the human bodies than ever before. This means that identification of the victims has become much more difficult. Forensic odontologists are responding to these new challenges with approaches to identification that embrace modern scientific methods. Since teeth and dental structures may survive post mortem, personal identification by means of dental data is still one of the most reliable methods of human identification.

Nevertheless, some disasters, including massive fires, may destroy most of the dentition, leaving little dental information for comparison with dental records. Therefore, other diagnostic approaches have been developed. Traces of saliva and fragments of teeth and bone may be a valuable source of DNA evidence, offering new probes to solve unanswered questions and clarify unusual cases. Craniofacial reconstruction is another tool, offering important potential for victim identification. Conventional techniques for craniofacial reconstruction are usually based on manual modeling and standard soft-tissue depth tables. More recent developments in computer-aided 3-D imaging and ultrasound applications for soft-tissue depth registrations may offer new diagnostic tools for craniofacial reconstruction.

The symposium will conclude with a discussion of the state of the art and identifying the challenges facing forensic diagnostic research.

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This is a summary of a symposium entitled "Current Concepts in Diagnostic Forensic Odontology", to be presented at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, March 11, 2005, in Room 339 of the Baltimore Convention Center, during the 83rd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.

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