Forensic Dental Evidence: An Investigator’s Handbook


C. Michael Bowers, D.D.S. J.D.

Book Description

This handbook is written for police investigators and forensic personnel who are tasked with developing investigations that require expertise in dentistry. The focus is providing the information necessary to recognize and professionally manage dental evidence. Investigators will understand the scientific nomenclature, scientific issues and the specialized forensic nature of this type of forensic investigation. The emphasis is on human identification from dental structures, the identification of people from bite marks, and the signs and significance of dental injuries present in violent crime.
Law enforcement personnel, coroners, and other death investigators often encounter crime scenes and victims that require dental expertise. Attorneys are asked to present dental evidence in court. This book delivers the backbone information for these individuals to better assess their needs in both casework and litigation. Forensic Dentistry contains numerous photographs of crime scene evidence and bite marks on victims and details for the reader the types of dental evidence and what is expected regarding collection, documentation, and the capabilities of analytical methods. This book is the first of its kind to present essential information to the field investigator in a format that allows easy reference and comprehensive detail.
* Contains previously unavailable information on digital photography and dental evidence
* Includes dozens of photos that illustrate the proper collection and preservation of evidence
* Provides desperately needed and essential information necessary to recognize, and professionally manage dental evidence

Editorial Reviews


“The book, which has a particularly attractive format and lay-out, offers the reader a detailed and updated overview of the modern methods employed in forensic odontology. The author, who is both a dentist and a legal professional, offers a number of concrete examples of investigations, where forensic medicine played a determining role. Case presentations, while focusing on identification, bite mark analyses, abuse and mass disasters emphasize, the role of methodology, the paramount importance of team work, on-site investigations, thorough searches for evidence, etc.”
– Newsletter of the International Organization for Forensic Odonto-Stomatology”This book’s title is perhaps the best review possible for this wonderful text. “Forensic Dental Evidence An Investigator’s Handbook” by C. Michael Bowers will show the crime scene investigator the complete scope of forensic odontology. A host of notable experts in the forensic sciences are listed as contributing authors and photographic contributors. The graphic illustrations provided in this book are excellent. The book begins by reviewing the history of forensic odontology. Dr. Bowers then describes who is qualified to render opinions on dental evidence. This book is a valuable tool to be used by the budding odontologist or any investigator trying to gain knowledge in the field of forensic odontology. I would highly recommend this book for library additions in any Medical Examiner’s office, police department, forensic nursing station, law office or any agency that would use the services of a forensic odontologist.”
– Bryan Chrz D.D.S., Past President American Board of Forensic Odontology, Anil Aggrawal’s Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology”When I was asked to review this book I accepted with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation. I know very little about dentistry. I was keen to read a book on a subject which I have little knowledge however, I was anticipating having to do a lot of research and learn the technical jargon used in dentistry. I felt that without additional researchI would not be able to review this book competently. Nothing could have been further from the truth in this case.

The first thing about this book that I was impressed with had nothing to do with the content. This book is a manageable size. There is nothing more daunting for any researcher or student than a 4000 page textbook. This book is 200 pages of well organized material and relevant photographs.
Still a little unsure of my ability to understand the content I sat down to read. To my great pleasure I read this book in 2 days. I was eased into the subject and never felt overwhelmed by scientific terminology.

This book is one of the most informative and interesting textbooks I have read. It eases the reader into the subject of forensic dentistry and provides clear well organized explanations of the applications of this branch of forensic investigation. This book is scattered with case studies which help illustrate the practical uses of forensic dentistry. Many textbooks I have read are written using tornadoes of technical jargon which leave the reader struggling to understand the material being presented. Forensic Dental Evidence is not one of these books. The language of this book is straight forward and easily understood. The subject matter is logically laid out. Each chapter explains the subject matter and then punctuates the information with exceptional photographs and relevant case studies. In addition each chapter contains a “how to collect and preserve various types of evidence section” should an investigator encounter a similar situation. When terms specific to dentistry are used they are accompanied by clear explanations or definitions.

The photographs in this book are impressive to say the least. I instantly thought of the various groups which I teach evidence recognition to when I saw the photographs of the individual types of human teeth. I will be taking this book with me to the next seminar as a teaching tool.
Bite mark analysis is a relatively new field of forensic investigation. Evidence of this type is often missed or misinterpreted. The chapter regarding this subject covers recognition, documentation and methods of comparison. There is also a comprehensive explanation of the types of cases in which this type of analysis may be useful. This chapter also includes step by step instruction on how to collect DNA samples from possible bite mark wounds.

The chapter on Physical Abuse and Forensic Dentistry may be useful to emergency medical personnel and not just forensic dental investigators. This chapter defines the various types of abuse which are common and identifies the groups in which these injuries are typically seen. There are also clear photographs of wounds which can be mistaken for bite marks.

The chapter on Dental Investigations in Mass Disasters will be useful for any personnel involved in recovery of remains in such situations. There are step by step guidelines for collection, documentation and preservation of evidence. This includes remains of any type not just dental evidence. A guide for protocol in response to mass disasters is also provided in this chapter.
Something fairly new is the use of digital imaging in evidence collection and analysis. This chapter covers the use of digital imaging devices and software. It clearly the explains the advantages of using digital images when used in conjunction with tradition photographic methods. This chapter also includes detail instruction on calculating and compensating for photographic distortion and other common problems encountered with still photography.
The final chapter in this book includes step by step instruction regarding photographic techniques.
Originally I thought I might recommend this book as a text for dental students of dentists interested in forensic investigations. I have changed my view having completed reading the book. I believe that this book should be required reading for all students of forensics. Some of the techniques described in this book can be used in almost any field of investigation. The examples of injuries and wound patterns can also be used across many fields of investigation. Groups which will consider this book especially useful will include all police forces, military and civilian search and rescue groups, medical personnel including coroners and medical examiners, photographers and computer technicians, anthropologists and social workers dealing with abuse issues. Finally this book should be recommended reading in law schools teaching criminal law and law enforcement training programs.”
– Crime Watch Canada

“…it does provide an excellent overview on this topic. This title is recommended for health sciences libraries.”
– E-Streams, Vol. 8, No. 3, March 2005

“He had quite a unique resume: He went to law school and he is a dentist. It’s a combination you don’t run into much. It gives him a feel for the legal process that most others in the medical profession don’t have.”
– Mike Frawley, Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney

Book Description

The first book to present the essential information to investigations that require expertise in dentistry.

Customer Reviews

A straightforward and specialized instructional text, May 15, 2004

Forensic Dental Evidence: An Investigator’s Handbook by forensic dental consultant C. Michael Bowers is a straightforward and specialized instructional text dedicated to teaching the foundations of dental investigation methodology to providing “need-to-know” information for law enforcement, coroners, crime scene personnel, investigators, and medical-legal personnel. Enhanced with more than 150 color photographs, Forensic Dental Evidence offers a straightforward basis of education concerning forensic odontology, as well as new advances and advice concerning digital comparison techniques which are now possible with Adobe Photoshop and other types of the latest computer and laboratory-based technologies. Forensic Dental Evidence is an expertly written and presented instructional that would form a core holding for any professional or academic Criminology or Forensic Science reference collection.


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