Initial Considerations

1. Is it a biting injury?

3. What should I do?

If the answer to the first question is "don't know," "possibly," or "yes," then request the assistance of the forensic dentist. Ensure that swabs are taken from the injured site (with controls) and photographs should be taken. Make sure that you know which forensic dentists are available in your area; this will prevent delays and frustration. You will need to know whether your local forensic dentist has experience and training in bite mark-analysis or whether he or she focuses mainly on identifications.

The forensic dentist will examine the suspected biting injury and consider the following:

• Whether the injury is oval or round.

• Whether the injury has central sparing or discoloration from suction or nipping between teeth.

• Whether the mark is made by two dental arches. However, note that a mark from only one arch does not mean that it is not a biting injury.

• Are marks made by individual teeth within the dental arch clearly visible?

• If so, is detail of that individual tooth visible? Characteristics, such as tooth size, shape, displacement, rotations, wear facets, etc. will be considered. Individual tooth absences from the arch will be noted.

• Is there sufficient detail for comparisons to be made with the biting edges of the teeth of any particular person or persons?

• Does the appearance of the injury fit the alleged time frame of the incident?

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