The practice of forensic dentistry has been around for centuries, but it wasn't until the late 20th century that it began to be accepted as a legitimate field of forensic science. Dr. Ascor Amoedo, known as the father of forensic dentistry, documented the first case of dental identification in which more people lost their lives in a disaster. This case dates back to the Roman Empire, and since then, dental tests have been used to identify the deceased and convict perpetrators of alleged crimes by analyzing bite marks.
Here is a look at some of the most famous cases related to forensic dentistry and the pioneers who helped shape this field.
The Reverend George BurroughsThe Reverend George Burroughs was a minister in Salem, Massachusetts, during the infamous Salem witch trials. Burroughs was arrested on suspicion of witchcraft after several local girls accused him of trying to recruit them. Aside from rumors, the only evidence against Rev.
Burroughs had bite marks found on some of his alleged victims. Burrough's mouth was “forcibly opened” and the prosecution compared her teeth with the teeth marks left on the bodies of several injured girls present in the courtroom. Soon after, the reverend was convicted and hanged for his crimes, making him just one of six men and fourteen women executed for the crime of witchcraft during the trials. The governor of Massachusetts called for an end to the witchcraft trials just two months later.
Paul RevereThe first forensic dentist in the United States was Paul Revere, known for identifying fallen revolutionary soldiers. Joseph Warren, who suffered a severe head injury during the war, was identified by the small dentures that Paul Revere had manufactured for him. Thanks to this identification, it was possible that Dr. Warren will be buried with full military honors.
Ted BundyTed Bundy is another famous case related to forensic dentistry. Upon landing in Tallahassee, Florida, Bundy joined the Chi Omega sorority at Florida State University on January 1st. Two of them, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman, died. Bundy also sexually assaulted Levy and bit her, leaving clear bite marks.
Bundy was recaptured in February 1978 and eventually went to trial for the Chi Omega murders. The prosecution used bite mark analysis, a form of forensic dentistry, to compare Bundy's helicopters with the victim's bite marks, which was fundamental to his conviction.
AgrippinaOne of the first known examples of forensic dentistry involved Agrippina, the mother of the Roman emperor Nero. In 49 A.
D., Agrippina demanded to see Lollia Paulina's head as proof of her death, but she wasn't sure that her rival was dead until she saw Lollia Paulina's distinctive discolored front teeth.
The Founding FathersWhat united the group of twelve “founding fathers” of forensic dentistry was their belief that bite testing could be used as a new tool along with fingerprints, toxicology and other established methods. Not content with playing a secondary role, they created their own organization: The American Board of Forensic Dentistry (ABFO). They began in 1976 with the creation of a “dentistry section” within the main professional forensic body in the United States: The American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
It wasn't until 1968 - twenty-three years later - that forensic dentistry was able to solve its first mystery case involving a tragic fire at a charity event which spurred interest in dental identification and thus began its evolution as an accepted field within medico-legal matters.