Daily Archives: June 30, 2012

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Vishnevsky: Forensic Dentistry: Bite Marks

You probably first heard of forensic dentistry back in January 1978. Ted Bundy went to the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University where he sexually assaulted Lisa Levy. He also bit her, leaving clear bite marks. When Bundy was recaptured after a manhunt, he went on trial. Investigators took casts of Bundy’s teeth, which showed that his teeth were unevenly aligned and that several were chipped. A forensic dentist showed that these casts matched photographs of the bite mark from the body of Lisa Levy. If Bundy hadn’t bitten Levy, he may not have been found guilty.


Forensic dentists identify the dead by their teeth and determine who did the biting when bite marks are found. In children, dentists can determine the age of the teeth. Bite marks are usually seen in cases involving sexual assault, murder and child abuse. They can be a major factor in leading to a conviction.

Bite marks change significantly over time, so analysis must be done immediately. The dentist first identifies whether the bite was human. Secondly, the dentist swabs the bite for DNA, which may have been left in the saliva of the biter. Forensic dentists take photographs and measurements of each individual bite mark. Finally, bite marks on deceased victims are cut out from the skin in the morgue and preserved in a compound called formalin. Forensic dentists then make a silicone cast of the bite mark. Investigators work with forensic dentists to help identify a suspect. Then, dentists take a mold of a suspect’s tooth and compare the mold with bite-mark casts.

Forensic dentists are also capable of learning about the biter by analyzing the bite mark. If there’s a gap in the bite, the biter is probably missing a tooth. Crooked teeth leave crooked impressions, while chipped teeth leave jagged-looking impressions of varying depth.
Bite marks are very different depending on whether the body is living or dead. However, the better the bite mark, the better a dentist can make a comparison. Forensic dentists are aware of the fact that no two mouths are alike, so bite marks will also be different.
While forensic dentistry can be extremely valuable in the justice system, bite mark comparison has been called into question. Dental profiles are subject to change, so comparison after a significant amount of time can be inaccurate.
Guest blogger Jennifer Vishnevsky is a freelancer for as well as other online sources.


Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

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