Health Career Center

Forensic Odontologists

Forensic odontologists are dentists who specialize in identifying human remains using various techniques.

These are typical duties of forensic odontologists:
  • Identifying unrecognizable remains using dental records
  • Identifying multiple unrecognizable bodies killed during natural disasters, plane wrecks, etc.
  • During assault cases, examining bite wounds to locate their source
  • Determining how old skeletal remains are
  • Testifying before juries during dental malpractice cases
Forensic odontologists are often assigned to autopsies to take pictures, x-rays, and measurements. After an autopsy, evidence is compared to individuals reported missing. After matches are made, the missing individual can be accurately identified.

After investigations are completed, forensic odontologists prepare reports with their conclusions. They're frequently asked to offer expert testimony before juries.

Working Conditions
Forensic odontologists typically perform general dentistry, but offer forensic services when requested by medical examiners or police agencies.

When investigating deaths, forensic odontologists often travel to disaster or crime scenes. However, they typically take x-rays and measurements at the medical examiner's office.

Since they're needed during all hours of the day, forensic odontologists are often required to remain on call. They frequently work holidays, nights, and weekends.

Forensic odontologists must be detail-oriented, accurate, and precise. They must also understand how to utilize sophisticated technology, including microscopes, x-ray machines, and computers.

Forensic odontologists are required to maintain records and present their conclusions in detailed reports. Conclusions are typically drawn exclusively from physical evidence. Working at crime and disaster scenes is emotionally challenging.

Career Training and Education
All forensic odontologists have completed dental school. After dental school, they receive forensic odontology training, which includes clinical training with experienced forensic odontologists.

Forensic odontologists certified with the American Association of Forensic Science must first complete 25 cases, attend various training programs and meetings, and pass an examination.
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