FAQ's

  • Just what is an odontologist?

    An odontologist is a person who studies teeth.

  • Can anyone be an odontologist?

    Technically, yes. Anyone can study and take training to be an odontologist. However, when used in this context, an odontologist is first a dentist, who has received further training to apply forensic techniques to dental evidence for use in a court of law. He or she is then referred to as a forensic odontologist. In the case of a dental identification, dental assistants or dental hygienists who have received further training can also function as part of an ID team, working along with dentists to determine an identification

  • As a dentist, I’m interested in learning more about this field. Where do I get the training and experience?

    Most dental schools are now providing their students with at least a sampling of the training required. More comprehensive courses can be taken at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology ( AFIP) in Washington DC. This is where many dentists get their training. Several states also periodically offer continuing education courses on this subject too.

  • How is a dental ID done?

    Identification of human remains, using dental techniques, is essentially a comparative technique. X-rays of the teeth found in the remains are compared to the x-rays received from the victim’s dentist. Teeth are as individualistic as fingerprints, and prove to be the most stable thing in the body in terms of surviving incredible trauma.

  • With the advent of DNA typing, why bother doing a dental ID?

    Because of time and money. A DNA typing usually takes several weeks to complete. And the expense can be staggering compared to the cost of a dental ID, which can be completed in a day or two for many times less than a DNA profile.

  • How often are forensic courses offered and who sponsors them?

    Continuing Ed courses are getting more and more popular all the time. The ISFO sponsors an occasional seminar in conjunction with their annual meeting. The State Dental Association also has an occasional forensic course. Several independent organizations put on courses all over the Midwest. You can keep checking the web sites, or the professional journals for notices of upcoming meetings.

  • What are some of the web sites where I can find out additional information?

    The links at the bottom of the page are some of the resources to get additional information.

  • How do you tell if the bruises seen on a person are bite marks?

    Generally the bruises will be curved. And many times the location of the bruise is a clue. When in doubt, it is best to have it checked by competent authorities.

  • What are the requirements for joining the ISFO?

    The only requirement for joining the ISFO is an interest in forensic odontology. However, the members who qualify to participate in, and sign off on a dental ID, must be dentists, trained in the techniques of doing a forensic examination. Non-dentists who are members may occasionally be called upon to assist in a single dental ID, or perhaps participate as members of a disaster ID-Team. But generally these individuals are dental assistants or dental hygienists who have the extra training also.

  • I don’t have the time or money to invest in spending one week in Washington, DC to take the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Forensic Odontology Course. Is there some other way of getting the same amount of training?

    The ISFO hopes to have a Mock Disaster Drill every couple of years. But this is intended to just help keep the skill level of our members up to the standards we like. There are weekend forensic courses that are available that are helpful. It depends on what the goals are for the individual. If they are interested in being selected to participated as members of a State ID-Team, their chances are better the more training and experience they have.

  • Why is a positive identification necessary?

    A positive identification is necessary to begin the legal process of issuing a death certificate, settling an estate, processing insurance claims, and allowing family members to get a closure that their loved one is gone.

  • Is there any difference between doing an ID on a child vs. an adult?

    No, essentially the same techniques are used. The ID can be more difficult because of growth of the jaws and/or development and loss of critical teeth.

  • How much does joining the ISFO cost, and what do I get for my money?

    The annual dues is $25. You will receive a newsletter twice a year, and be informed of all upcoming meetings and continuing education programs.

  • How do I locate a forensic dentist in my area of the state?

    Contact any one of the ISFO officers, and they will direct you.

  • When was the last disaster in the State of Indiana where the ISFO team participated?

    The last disaster within the state was October 31, 1994. It was a small commuter jet being held on a holding pattern by Chicago’s O’Hare airport when it went down in Northwest Indiana. However there were three members of the ISFO who participated in the World Trade Center Investigation of September 11, 2001.