April 18, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Forensic odontologists are specially trained, highly experienced dentists who use their expert knowledge and skills to help link bite marks to a specific individual and to identify unknown remains. Forensic odontology demands extreme attention to detail and the ability to work patiently to complete lengthy processes step-by-step without rushing. Since it involves identifying humans who cannot be identified by any other means, precision is paramount.
Detailed Job Description
As a forensic odontologist, you would work as regular dentists most of the time. You would perform forensic examinations whenever needed at the request of the medical examiner or local law enforcement.
Some of the job functions of a forensic odontologist would include:
-Identifying human remains using dental records when fingerprints or other means of identification do not throw up any definite results
-Determining the source of bite mark injuries in cases of suspected abuse or assault
-Identifying bodies in case of mass deaths, such as a plane crash or any natural disaster
-Testifying in cases of suspected dental malpractice
-Estimating the approximate age of skeletal remains
Depending on the circumstances, the forensic odontologist may be called in by police officers, the coroner or the medical examiner to conduct the dental examination.
In death cases, the forensic odontologist is present during the autopsy and takes photographs, dental impressions, cranial measurements and X-rays from the remains. These specifics are then compared to those of known missing individuals to try and find a match. If a match can be made, the remains can be identified.
In cases there are bite marks on the body of a victim or suspected perpetrator, or any other item found on or around the victim or perpetrator, the forensic odontologist uses the same procedure to identify the source of the bite marks.
After a thorough study of all the evidence found, the forensic odontologist writes a detailed report explaining exactly what was done and what conclusions can be made. In case the case goes to court, the forensic odontologist has to be prepared to explain the process and justify the findings in court.
Since disasters and crimes can happen at any time, a forensic odontologist who is “on call” must be ready to work long hours, day or night, on weekends and holidays too.
The work is extremely detailed and requires fine motor skills and extraordinary precision and accuracy. To help them in their job, these professionals use highly complex technologies and state of the art equipment.
To practice as a forensic odontologist, you must first complete your training to become a dentist. After you’ve earned a Doctor of Dental Science (DDS) degree, you undergo extensive additional training in the techniques and methodologies of forensic odontology, along with hands-on experience in this specialty. You can obtain some of your most valuable exposure to this specialty by shadowing a more senior professional.
Before you can obtain your certification from the American Association of Forensic Science, you are required to work 25 cases, accumulate 350 qualification points by attending meetings and other professional development programs, and finally pass a qualifying exam.
Forensic Odontologist Salary in the US
The salary of a forensic odontologist in the US ranges from about $150,000 to $185,000 a year.