Identification of a charred corpse through dental records

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ISSN:
Printed version: 1806-7727
Electronic version: 1984-5685
RSBO. 2011 Jul-Sep;8(3):345-51
Case Report Article
Identification of a charred corpse through
dental records
Isamara Geandra Cavalcanti Caputo1
Jair Naves dos Reis2
Teresa Cristina Pantozzi Silveira1
Marco Aurélio Guimarães1
Ricardo Henrique Alves da Silva3
Corresponding author:
Ricardo Henrique Alves da Silva
Avenida do Café, s/n. – Monte Alegre
CEP 14040-904 – Ribeirão Preto – SP – Brasil
E-mail: [email protected]
1
2
3
School of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo – Ribeirao Preto – SP – Brazil.
Center of Legal Medical Investigation of Ribeirao Preto – Ribeirao Preto – SP – Brazil.
School of Dentistry of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paulo – Ribeirao Preto – SP – Brazil.
Received for publication: October 6, 2010. Accepted for publication: November 22, 2010.
Keywords: Forensic
dentistry; forensic
anthropology;
documentation.
Abstract
Introduction: Forensic Dentistry is an area of Dentistry related
to Law. Among its goals is the execution of human identification,
defined as the process of determining the person’s identity. The
forensic dentist uses, in this process, ante-mortem records and
data for comparison with post-mortem information obtained from
the examination of the body. Objective: To describe the process
of identification of a charred corpse by using dental records. Case
report: The human material remained from a charred corpse was
sent to an anthropological and dental analysis for identification
purposes. This employed the analysis of the corpse examination
and odontological records. Conclusion: The identification of the
victim in this case points out to the need of an interdisciplinary
work between Forensic Medicine and Dentistry in situations
which other routine identification processes cannot be applied,
highlighting the importance of the Forensic dentist for the final
solution of the case.
Caputo et al.
346 – Identification of a charred corpse through dental records
Introduction
Forensic Dent ist r y is a n a rea related to
Law. One of the goals of the forensic dentist is
to execute the process of human identification;
by this process, the identity of an individual is
determined [22]. Therefore, this area may be
considered a science that deals with the gathering,
preservation, and comparison of vestiges with
patterns obtained at a past moment [2].
All the process of human identification, from
the analysis of fingerprints to dental identification
or even DNA technology, is based on a comparative
process; that is, to achieve a positive result, a
composition of data previously obtained and
related to the same material should exist to allow
the comparison with the material available for
examination at the present moment.
Therefore, a ny document at ion produced
ante-mortem is capable of being used during the
identification process. Dental records are one of
the materials that provide a higher number of
information to execute the comparative process,
offering the details and particularities that make
a person unique. Compared to other methods
of identification, denta l records is only less
practicable than fingerprint analysis. However,
the latter cannot always be achieved in cases
which the tissues of the distal upper extremities
are destroyed.
Forensic Dentistry employs ante-mortem
dental data and records in order to compare
them with other post-mortem information through
using the registers within patient’s dental file [3],
which comprises all documentation regarding to
dental treatment, including: anamnesis, treatment
planing, executed procedures, complementary
examinations, radiographs, photographs, dental
casts, prescriptions, receipts, certificates, among
others [20].
To reach an identification, the results are
directly dependent on the amount and quality
of the information within dental records, mainly
those that must be register by the dentist during
the clinical examination, treatment planning and
after the procedures execution. These comprise
all the information present in the documentation
produced by and related to dental treatment, such
as dental file, radiographs, and dental casts,
among others [17]. The Brazilian Federal Council
of Dentistry recommends that the clinical record
should be replaced or expanded to a dental file
[1], because this document is more complete and
has more possibility of recording more data due
to dental treatment [12].
With the information provided by the clinical
examination, in most of the cases, the dentist
needs to perform complementary examinations to
establish a diagnosis and a treatment planning that
is more appropriate in each clinical situation. Such
examinations included the obtainment of images,
by either radiographs or computed tomography,
and dental casts [16]. This documentation must
be carefully filled in as an integrant part of the
dental file to preserve the information included
in these examinations [7, 14].
To perform the identification process, it is
indispensable that the most possible amount of
detailed treatment-related information be properly
registered and filled in patient’s dental file [18].
Therefore, the aim of this study is to present a
forensic case report of human identification of a
charred corpse through dental records.
Case report
The material coming from a human burn
victim due to a car accident was referred by the
Center of Legal Medical Investigation of Ribeirao
Preto for anthropological analysis aiming to
ident i f icat ion at t he Laborator y of Forensic
Anthropology of the Center of Forensic Medicine
of the School of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto of the
University of Sao Paulo. Because the state of the
body destruction makes the fingerprint collection
impossible as well as the execution of the complete
anthropological examination, we checked for the
presence of elements that allowed the dental
forensic analysis.
The maxilla was then enucleated to execute
the forensic examination through the technique
described by Luntz and Luntz [4] who used an
electric saw to cut above the apical area of the teeth
in an arch shape, by moving from left to right,
up to the complete removal of the maxilla. Due to
great body destruction, the mandible was already
disconnected, consequently not necessitating of any
enucleation process. Following the enucleation, the
structures were cleaned for the proper analysis
of the information.
The maxilla presented points of carbonization
at the distal portion of the tuberosity and pterygoid
process. The teeth demonstrated signs of the action
of fire on its structure. The posterior teeth were
sound while the anterior teeth underwent a process
of calcination, resulting in loss of all tooth crown
structure. It was verified the presence of a fixed
orthodontic appliance, with brackets, orthodontic
bands, wire, and elastics (figure 1).
RSBO. 2011 Jul-Sep;8(3):345-51 – 347
Figure 1 – The maxilla enucleated for the forensic examination of the charred corpse, 2010
The hemisectioned mandible allowed to exam only its right side, comprising the ramus and
body. All body of the mandible was carbonized, demonstrating the loss of hard tissue due to the
action of fire. Also, we noted the presence of a fixed orthodontic appliance with brackets and
bands, but without the orthodontic wire (figure 2).
Figure 2 – The mandible used in the forensic examination of a charred corpse, 2010
Caputo et al.
348 – Identification of a charred corpse through dental records
Table I displays the findings of the macroscopic
examination of dental forensic analysis.
Table I – Description of the dental findings of the
charred corpse, 2010
Tooth
Upper right
third molar
Upper right
second molar
Information
Absent. Ante-mortem lost.
Present. Amalgam restoration
on occlusal surface.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Upper right
on occlusal surface. Presence
first molar
of orthodontic bracket and
band.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Upper right
on mesial and occlusal
second bicuspid surface. Presence of
orthodontic bracket.
Upper right
Absent. Ante-mortem lost.
first bicuspid
Upper right
Present. Presence of
canine tooth orthodontic bracket.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Upper right
on palatal surface. Cavity
lateral incisor without restoration on labial
and mesial surface.
Upper right
Present (only the root portion
central incisor and 2/3 of the crown).
Upper left
Present (only root portion).
central incisor
Upper left
Present (only the root portion
lateral incisor and 1/3 of the crown).
Upper left
Present.
canine tooth
Upper left first
Absent. Ante-mortem lost.
bicuspid
Present. Amalgam restoration
Upper left
on distal and occlusal surface.
second bicuspid
Presence of orthodontic bracket.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Upper left first on occlusal and palatal
molar
surface. Presence of
orthodontic bracket and band.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Upper left
on occlusal and palatal
second molar
surface.
Upper left third
Absent. Ante-mortem lost.
molar
Lower left third
Not referred for examination.
molar
Lower left
Not referred for examination.
second molar
Lower left first
molar
Lower left
second bicuspid
Lower left first
bicuspid
Lower left
canine tooth
Lower left
lateral incisor
Lower left
central incisor
Lower right
central incisor
Lower right
lateral incisor
Lower right
canine tooth
Not referred for examination.
Not referred for examination.
Not referred for examination.
Not referred for examination.
Not referred for examination.
Not referred for examination.
Present.
Present.
Present. Presence of bracket.
Present. Amalgam restoration
on occlusal surface. Presence
of orthodontic bracket.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Lower right
on occlusal surface. Presence
second bicuspid
of orthodontic bracket.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Lower right
on occlusal surface. Presence
first molar
of orthodontic bracket and
band.
Present. Amalgam restoration
Lower right
on occlusal surface. Fracture
second molar of restoration of buccal
surface.
Lower right
Absent.
third molar
Lower right
first bicuspid
The following dental records were sent for
forensic analysis: 1) lateral and frontal extra- and
intraoral photographs; 2) orthodontic analysis
and tracings; 3) lateral radiograph of the head; 4)
panoramic radiograph; 5) periapical radiograph of
the area of upper incisors; 6) periapical radiograph
of lower incisors; 7) periapical radiograph of
upper incisors; 8) request for dental extraction;
9) dental casts of upper and lower arches; 10)
bite register wax.
Discussion
The human identification may occur through
the most varied biological parameters: papiloscopic,
iris, genetic, and dental analysis, among others.
The choice of the methodology depends on the
RSBO. 2011 Jul-Sep;8(3):345-51 – 349
condition in which the body to be identified was
found as well as the type of the material available
for performing the comparison [13]. The dental
records furnished for the process of identification
did not contain the register of the treatment’s
clinical procedures for forensic comparison. For
this purpose, we use the periapical and panoramic
radiographic, as well as dental casts. Concerning
to the charred corpse, we perform the radiograph
shot of the osseous remnants.
Among the several types of the documents
produced by the clinical practice, dental files
and clinical register are the most frequently ones
[9], due to the necessity of recording patient’s
information, such as: anamnesis, dental features,
and the treatment planning to be executed [10].
Based on the dental information provided, we were
capable of comparing them to find positive points
of confrontation, to identify the individual.
By comparing the treatment performed on the
upper right lateral incisor (tooth #12), we verified
that its shape, contour, and site of restorative
treatment was totally compatible. Also, when root
and canal shape were compared, it produces
a positive compatibility (figure 3). A positive
comparison was also achieved in a feature of the
restorative treatment of the upper right first molar
(tooth #16) which presented a fracture in the palatal
surface. By comparing it with the dental casts,
we found the same cavity. At this same tooth, the
restoration shape was matched to the dental casts
(figure 4).
Figure 3 – Forensic confrontation between ante-mortem and post-mortem radiographs associated to the treatment
verified on the material provided
Figure 4 – Forensic confrontation between ante-mortem and post-mortem dental casts associated to the treatment
verified on the material provided
Scientific literature states that the identification
of charred corpse by dental features is perfectly
viable [11]. For charred corpse, the most indicated
technique is forensic dentistry due to the highest
resistance of the teeth and restorative materials
to the heat and fire action [5]. Generally, forensic
dentistry as well as other human identification
met hods comprises a compa rat ive met hod.
Didactically, it is divided into three stages: a)
examination of the corpse’s dental arches; b)
examination of the dental records provided; c)
forensic dentistry confrontation [8].
The examination of the corpse’s dental arches
should include all dental information and the
dentition features, such as: restorations, presence of
supernumerary teeth, absence of teeth, alterations in
Caputo et al.
350 – Identification of a charred corpse through dental records
tooth positions, among other findings. At this first
stage, the forensic expert executes complementary
examinations in the body, always being guided
by the dental records provided. At this moment,
post-mortem radiograph
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examinations will be
performed.
By describing tooth per tooth, as seen in table
I, the forensic dentist goes to the second step of
the identification process, by analyzing all the
documentation provided. A new description tooth
per tooth based on the documentation provided
is executed. The third step is composed by the
comparison of data verified in the victim with the
previous findings, always using the same parameters
and landmarks.
In Forensic Dentistry identification, the expert
needs to pay attention in the qualitative aspects of
the ante- and post-mortem information obtained,
because the establishment of a positive identity
and obtainment of convergent points will depend
ultimately on the quality of the material to be
examined [19].
Because dental forensic examination is very
specialized, it demands the dental forensic expert’s
previous knowledge for verifying the features of each
case. Therefore, the collaborative and cooperative work
between Forensic Dentistry and Medicine is essential
for identification cases in extreme situation, generating
the results expected by the society. The scientific
literature already demonstrated that Forensic Dentistry
is an indispensable tool in the process of human
identification and, it is capable of acting in cases of
charred corpse identification, with positive results [6,
15, 17, 21]. In several cases, Forensic Dentistry is the
only available method for identification.
Conclusion
By analyzing the dental records and the features
found in the corpse’s dental arches, convergence
points were established (restoration contour,
internal morphology of root canal and root shape
of the upper right lateral incisor; lack of restorative
treatment and restoration contour of the occlusal
surface of upper right first molar) between the
ante-mortem dental records and the post-mortem
material provided for forensic examination, enabling
the positive identification.
Acknowledges
We thank for the trust of the Center of Legal
Medical Investigation of Ribeirao Preto by referring
the case for identification.
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