How Dentistry Can Help Solve Crimes


Well, I hope this never happens to you or your close friends and family.   Just as we have all seen on TV, dentists can help solve crime.    Years ago I received a call from the South Carolina Police in Columbia, South Carolina. They had found a body of a young lady at the bottom of a lake and wanted her dental records for verification.  In fact, I had done a couple of fillings for her just a couple of months earlier. I made copies of the x-rays (now we have digital x-rays and the info can be emailed almost immediately) and sent them to the authorities to verify or disprove their suspicions.


Dental impression materials and plaster are helpful for crime solving. Impressions of foot prints and tire tracks can be taken by pouring dental plaster into the print. The model can then be compared to any tires or impressions of feet to look for a match to see if that person is a possible candidate for the culprit. There was a case years ago where a murderer had bitten into an apple and left it on the table. The bite marks of the apple were duplicated and helped to convict the offender.


There is a technology with computer enhancement to take a skull and build layers upon layers of what would be muscle, then put skin like material over that. That will give a possible look of the corpse to help identify corpses when dental records or not available. There is a movie called “Gorky Park” in which this kind of technology was used to identify a corpse found in Moscow’s Gorky Park. Also of interest in this movie, the corpse had a root canal done with gutta percha, a rubbery material also used inside golf balls. This technique is typical of American dentistry whereas root canals done in Europe usually are done with a paste that looks different on an x-ray.


So these are just a few examples of how dentistry and dental materials can help detectives with solving their mysteries. The actual science of doing this is called forensic odontology.