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OdontoSearch 3.0

Subjective vs. Objective Interpretations

The problem with dental treatment charts and notes is that, unlike x-rays, the information cannot be shown to be exclusively correlated to a specific individual.   In the past, the strength of a match between a missing person's dental treatment records and the treatment observed on an unidentified set of remains has been based on the clinical experience of the dentist.  This interpretation is subjective since different dentists may come to very different conclusions even though they are looking at the same records.

The OdontoSearch 3.0 computer program provides an objective means of assessing the frequency of occurrence for dental treatment.  The results from OdontoSearch 3.0 provide statistical values and an objective means of quantifying the relative frequency that a dental pattern occurs in the general population.  The program works by comparing an individual's pattern of missing, filled, and unrestored teeth to a large, representative sample of the U.S. population.  Currently the OdontoSearch 3.0 database includes dental records of 57,980 adults.  The methodology and rationale behind the OdontoSearch 3.0 program is very similar to the statistical procedures that have been established for mitochondrial DNA comparisons.

Important Considerations with OdontoSearch 3.0

Two important points need to be recognized about the OdontoSearch 3.0 program:

1) The OdontoSearch 3.0 program is not a means to select a specific person from a database of missing individuals.  There are separate programs (such as UDIM or WinID) that are used for matching antemortem and postmortem records.  In actuality, the OdontoSearch 3.0 database is composed of individuals who voluntarily participated in dental health studies. The goal of the OdontoSearch 3.0 database is only to provide a representative sample of the dental treatment of the adult U.S. population over 14 years of age.

2) A possible dental association must be established between a specific individual and an unidentified set of remains for the results of OdontoSearch 3.0 to be meaningful. In other words, determining that an unidentified set of remains exhibits an extremely rare dental pattern is worthless unless there is some prior correlation to a missing individual. OdontoSearch 3.0 simply provides a statistical value that quantifies the strength of the observed dental pattern with an unidentified individual.  For example, OdontoSearch 3.0 may show that a dental pattern is very uncommon (perhaps never observed in the entire database) which provides strong support that the unidentified individual and the missing individual could be the same person.

Interpretation of OdontoSearch 3.0 Results

With the OdontoSearch 3.0 program, uncommon dental patterns can be recognized as such, and a frequency value can be associated with the pattern. In many instances these results may be counterintuitive since the presence of only a few "common" fillings may create a very rare dental pattern when all of the teeth are considered as a whole pattern. The OdontoSearch 3.0 results may be used along with other analytical information (e.g., skeletal analysis, personal effects, geographic area, etc.) in order to build a convincing case for identification to a specific individual. The OdontoSearch 3.0 results provide statistical values and remove the subjectivity from comparisons of antemortem and postmortem dental records.

This program allows for any number of teeth from 1 to 28 (excludes third molars) to be entered, which allows for cases involving postmortem loss or missing data.

OdontoSearch Reference Material

For more information about OdontoSearch, read the following articles from the Journal of Forensic Sciences:

Adams, B.J., 2003, Establishing Personal Identification Based on Specific Patterns of Missing, Filled, and Unrestored TeethJournal of Forensic Sciences, 48(3):487-496.

Adams, B.J.. 2003, The Diversity of Adult Dental Patterns in the United States and the Implications for Personal IdentificationJournal of Forensic Sciences, 48(3):497-503.