Radiology determines identity
Evaluation of human teeth
is commonly used to aid in identifying human remains. Radiographic depiction of
anatomical features such as crown morphology, root characteristics and the spatial
relationship between teeth can objectively identify an individual.
Robert E. Wood of the University of
British Columbia in Vancouver reviewed radiographic methods that can be used to
determine identity using the teeth, root structures and frontal sinuses. Radiographically
assisted dental identification may be either comparative, in which radiographs from
before and after death are compared to confirm identity, or reconstructive, which
aids in the generation of a biological profile of a person whose identity is unknown.
One technique is digital dental radiographic
identification, in which the films are digitized and a horizontal strip is cut from
a radiograph exposed before or after death and placed over the corresponding area
in the opposite radiograph (see figure). The degree of concordance can be assessed
and subsequently provide a positive, possible or negative identification. Wood reports
a device that has been developed to help re-create image geometry on films exposed
after death to resolve spatial relationship issues.
Because of the anatomical complexity
of facial bones, comparison radiographs of the frontal sinus may be used, as the
view that demonstrates the frontal sinus provides a high-quality radiographic depiction.
Several studies have been done that found radiographic sinus comparison to be a
successful technique. Dental radiography also may be used for disaster victim identification
in mass casualty incidents, for age determination, to demonstrate fracture patterns
in blunt-force trauma of the skull or to solve claims of dental malpractice.
Wood suggests that future studies should
focus on the stability of anatomical features over time, on various ethnic populations
to provide reference material for age determination and on the extent to which radiographic
image geometry may be used before it disallows identification. (Forensic Science
International, May 15, 2006, pp. S47-S55.)
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