How Dental Implants May Help in Unveiling a Cold Case
A sneak peek into the world of dental implants and their role in forensic odontology
What is the first thing that we notice when meeting a new person? A handful of us might have a varying answer; but for the majority, it is the face that grabs the initial impression. More often than not, we recollect a person by their facial appearance. Be it a friend that hasn’t been under your radar for a while or a stranger that you met on your way back home. Faces have something magical about them!
A vital part to our facial anatomy is our teeth. They make or break our overall look. Right from our facial length, jawbone structure and the way we smile. All of that are dependent on one’s dental alignment. Admit it or not, we are more than likely to have been wowed by a person having a pretty good teeth and a great smile. So, next time make sure to have your teeth groomed well before stepping out :)
Now let’s imagine that you are suffering from a dental structural defect. Maybe you broke into a fight with your neighborhood gang and sacrificed a tooth or two. What do you do now? How are you going to impress your crush? Wait a minute! Don’t get all your hopes shattered. There is still a ray of hope … That is where dental implants come into the picture.
Dental implant is a clinical procedure used to replace a dysfunctional, damaged or a missing tooth as in your case. An implant ensures that, an artificial component known as a dental prosthesis is attached to your jaw or skull for structural support. The preferred choice of material for implants are titanium and its alloys whereas ceramics or porcelain are used for a natural looking crown (prosthesis). Titanium is widely used, given its biocompatible nature with our human body. It is highly corrosive resistant and paves way for natural integration with the surrounding bones (Osseointegration). Titanium mimics our natural tooth which results in our body sending calcium to the jaw bone; thus, creating a strong base for our newly replaced tooth.
The implant was successful. You have parted ways with your dentist after having restored your fallen soldier (the tooth!). The only thing left on your mind, is to meet your crush and impress him/her with your charming smile. But Alas! Bad luck follows you again. You’ve been run over by a vehicle and succumbed on the spot (R.I.P, my friend). A violent explosion was to follow. The scene was filled with fumes. Loud sirens were approaching the area. The police and the paramedics arrived at the spot. Initial impressions hint towards a cold-blooded homicide. Unfortunately, they haven’t identified the victim yet. Nobody knows it’s you! The explosion has caused all into ashes. There is no trace left to verify your identity. All that remains is a highly mutilated human skeleton that is beyond recognition.
Identifying the victim/the deceased person is a crucial aspect in the initiation of a criminal investigation. It is also vital in providing relief to the survivors of the deceased; whose whereabouts may have been unknown. Not just that, your pension, insurance or any other financial benefit will require a positive identification of the deceased. Well, Thank God for making you undergo a dental implant. That very piece of biomaterial is going to bring forth justice!
Teeth are regarded as the most indestructible part of a human body. They exhibit the highest tolerance to various environmental phenomenon such as decomposition, desiccation or fire. They are able to survive most disastrous outcomes and play a vital role in personal identification of an unrecognizable mutilated body. Dr. Oscar Amoedo, who identified the fire accident victims in Paris (1897) is attributed as the Father of Forensic Odontology.
Forensic dental identification of a deceased is carried out in several ways. Various methods such as CT, panoramic image, 3-D imaging and intraoral radiographs are used for dental implant identification in the deceased. However, the commonly preferred choice is an intraoral radiograph. Batch number embedded in the dental implants are also helpful in narrowing the identity search. The latest addition to the list is the Implant recognition software (IRS) which streamlines the whole process and makes implant recognition a lot faster. They assist the forensic team in retracing to the prosthesis manufacturer; which in turn allows to obtain the dental records of possible suspects. The post-mortem dental records of the deceased are then corelated with pre-existing antemortem dental records in the database and possible matches are found out.
In a nutshell, Forensic odontology and dental implants in particular play a paramount role in the identification of individuals who otherwise cannot be recognized by any means. However, in order for forensic odontology to bear fruitful results, a well-maintained and documented dental record is mandatory. These records can be collated with post-mortem findings and other relevant factors that will ultimately lead to the identification of the person. Governments should thereby establish a well-structured, centralized dental record system to expedite the identification process.