Forensic dentistry is not a new science, since it has been around since the civil war and refined during the late 1800s. Dentists helped identify bodies found after huge fires had claimed many unrecognizable victims, such as the Chicago fire, the shirt-waist fire in lower Manhattan, and the major conflagration under the tents of a Paris outdoor fair. A burst dam in the Rocky Mountains that killed over 500 people who lived in the valley below should also be included. In modern times forensics was a major factor in airline crashes, and of course 9/11.
The method that most Forensic dentists use now is to chart the mouths of victims who were too ravaged to be recognizable or have enough skin on their hands to have fingerprints. The jaws should be worked open enough so that the dentist could chart the mouth, and that X-ray films could be placed next to the teeth and a full series of X-rays could be taken. All abnormalities should be noted, as well as what teeth are missing, what fillings are present, what teeth have been replaced by either fixed, or removable appliances,and which teeth have had root canal treatment, or implants.
Once this process has been completed, the dentist or their assistant takes a history to find out what people might have been present at the occurrence, and then contact the various dental practitioners who might have worked on them, and request a copy of their records. If a match is not close enough for a definite comparison it can be confirmed with further DNA Testing.
If none of this is possible NCIS has to be contacted which would list all the people who have been declared missing, and many times the dentist can find a match.
If none of the above works, after a certified time in cold storage, the remains are buried in Potters Field which is a small island off City Island by convicts from Rikers Island, If necessary the bodies can be exhumed at a later date.
In my first novel, False Impressions, which is due out on August 1st, the main character, the irreverent Forensic Dentist, Steve Landau, performs all these duties in a much more humorous, but dramatic fashion, and could be an enjoyable, as well as educational way to get your facts. Dr. Stanley Woods-Frankel can be contacted via his web site: