Dental comparison of antemortem (before death) and postmortem (after death) records provides one of the best avenues for establishing personal identification in the forensic sciences. Ideally, dentists work with antemortem dental x-rays since these provide a sort of "photographic" image of a known person at a specific point in time. These x-rays can be compared with dental x-rays taken from an unidentified set of remains in order to determine a match or exclusion. Commonly, the sizes and shapes of fillings present in the teeth can be matched to establish a "positive identification." Unfortunately, these antemortem x-rays are not always available and dental comparisons must be completed based only on written notes and charts obtained from a missing individual's medical records. OdontoSearch 3.0 creates a means of using these charts and notes (in the absence of x-rays) for identification purposes.
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. For example, several people may have the same teeth filled or extracted thus their charting would be the same. 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 (different dentists may come to very different conclusions). The OdontoSearch 3.0 computer program provides an objective means of assessing the frequency of occurrence for dental treatment. 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. The methodology and rationale behind the OdontoSearch 3.0 program is very similar to the procedures that have been established for mitochondrial DNA comparisons.