Systemic health, diet, habits, geography, and even social behavior can be revealed by studying teeth. Dentistry has also been used to identify human remains. This was the case of Josef Mengele, also known as The Angel of Death, who drowned in Brazil in 1979 and was buried with a different name. In 1985, his body was exhumed and forensic odontology was used to confirm his identity.
The importance of dental identification is growing each year. Over time, the role of forensic odontology has become more significant since often teeth and dental restorations are the only means of identification. It has been used to identify people in mass disasters (aviation, earthquakes, tsunamis), in crime investigations, in ethnic studies and in the identification of decomposed and disfigured bodies. The various methods employed in forensic odontology include dental fingerprints, x-rays, photographic studies, rugoscopy, cheiloscopy, and molecular methods.
The research methods applied in forensic odontology are reasonably reliable but there are still deficiencies that need to be addressed to make it a more effective procedure. Forensic odontology was used to solve the case of a fire caused by “charred remains” and help convict 25-year-old suspect Chris Cruz (student and model). Dental pulp was removed as a sample along with evidence of blood found in Cruz's car. Forensic chemistry is the application of chemistry, forensic toxicology, in a legal environment.
Despite having advanced significantly through various techniques in the identification of accident victims and in investigative criminology, forensic odontology is still subject to certain limitations. Strategies are needed to develop international forensic odontology capacity and resources for the management of corpses after a massive disaster, together with universal guidelines and codes. Forensic odontology is an essential tool for solving cases that involve human remains or identification processes. It is an invaluable resource for law enforcement agencies as it can provide reliable evidence that can be used to solve cases quickly and accurately.
It is also an important tool for identifying victims of mass disasters or crimes.