Shadowing a DoctorDecember 10, 2014
Forensic odontologists are highly specialised dentists that study bite marks and other dental characteristics in order to identify the remains of deceased people. Identifying an individual just by teeth marks can be a very challenging and time-consuming process. Overlooking the smallest detail can make the difference between success and failure. Excellent fine motor skills as well as patience, precision and attention to details are some of the most crucial qualities for a forensic odontologist.
Qualification and training requirements
The first step to becoming a forensic odontologist is to complete your dental training and obtain a primary dental qualification, which is a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Science) or its equivalent.
The University of Dundee in Scotland is the only training course in the UK that offers a Master of Forensic Odontology programme. This is a one-year course that starts in September every year. As a forensic odontology student in this university, you will get the opportunity to work closely with postgraduate students in other forensic-related disciplines, giving you a deeper understanding of the various aspects that are involved when dealing with forensic issues in real life.
You will also need to get some practical experience in the field. Shadowing a forensic odontologist and observing how they work is the best way to gain valuable practical experience.
Detailed job description
Forensic odontologists are often called upon to do the following tasks:
- Identify human remains through dental records when other means of identification are not available or ineffective
- Determine the sources of bite marks or other injuries on victims of abuse
- Estimate the average age of skeletal remains
- Testify in court if dental malpractice is suspected
- Identify victims in the case of mass deaths such as plane crashes or natural disasters
These professionals are called upon by the police or medical examiners to help whenever a forensic exam is needed. During cases involving death, the odontologist usually stays during the examination of the body and obtains various x-rays, dental impressions, photographs and any other information that may be necessary for identifying the body. When not attending to forensic investigations, these professionals work at their regular dental practice.
Staying up to date with the latest technology is essential in this speciality
Using the latest technology always gives the best results and since precision is an important aspect of this job, you will be expected to stay up to date on the latest technology in this field in order to be as accurate as possible while identifying the remains of human bodies.
Salary expectations and working hours
The average annual starting salary for a trainee or assistant forensic odontologist ranges from about £16,000 to £18,000. After two to three years experience, this can go up to about £25,000-£30,000. Experienced professionals earn an annual income that averages more than £50,000.
There are no fixed working hours in this speciality as extra hours are often required so that a job can be done within an allotted time.