Guest Blogger: Jennifer Vishnevsky: Forensic Dentistry: Bite Marks

30 Jun

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


8 responses to “Guest Blogger: Jennifer Vishnevsky: Forensic Dentistry: Bite Marks

  1. A Mississippian

    June 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    There was an expose in Newsweek (and I believe other places) years ago (the 1990s I believe) about a Mississippi dentist named West whose testimony was found to be questionable & the cause of innocent people going to jail and/or legitimate cases being tainted. (He even ate one of the evidentiary sandwiches so it was not available for analysis by others.) I would be interested in an analysis of those cases as well as an interview with some of the legitimate forensic dentistry experts.


  2. sifs india

    July 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    We provide forensic science training courses and education by online/distance mode with real court cases practice which include analysis of handwriting, fingerprint science, forensic biology, DNA Fingerprinting, Cyber Forensics, ethical hacking, Forensic Graphology,Forensic Psychology. We have solved a lot of forensic cases related to forensic odontology and some other related problems.


  3. zahnarzt berlin

    July 11, 2012 at 12:06 am

    you knowledge about teeth is good, it helps to protract teeth as much as we can, i love to red this.


  4. zahnarzt berlin

    July 11, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I think it is another revolutionary step in the field of dentistry, helpful and less time consuming, its results are accurate and the procedure is risk less.


  5. Ross

    July 20, 2012 at 6:47 am

    This is great. I love the idea of using this method, thanks for sharing.
    Ross@Park Ridge Cosmetic Dentist


  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    July 20, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Sorry to get to this late, Doug, but hopefully you’ll see my comment, if not I’ll e mail you privately or buy you a drink at BCon. But I am dying to know what you think about the West Memphis Three case, and the fact that John Mark Byers had his teeth REMOVED, making it impossible to compare his teeth to the bite marks on the murdered boys. How is it, do you think, that that went uninvestigated in this horrific case?


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      July 20, 2012 at 9:49 am

      This case was botched on many levels and by many people.


  7. Family Dentists Rocklin

    July 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Forensic dentistry is really helpful for any kind of investigations especially with child abuse and sexual harassment and even murder where a bite mark was seen in the crime scene. This is very helpful idea for everybody.



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