Bite marks are used in forensic medicine to identify an assailant by comparing the marks with their dental records. This part of forensic science is known as forensic odontology or forensic dentistry. Human bite marks are found only when the teeth are used as a weapon (Verma, Kumar, & Bhattacharya, 2013). It has been realized that bitemarks provide details the same as fingerprints (Verma, Kumar, & Bhattacharya, 2013). Bite marks can be seen at crime scenes on various parts of the body, and are common in sexual assault cases (Gorea et al, 2014). Therefore, in order to identify a person using bite marks, it is important that the forensic dentist gets to the scene as soon as possible because the marks could change over time due to body reactions.
The bite is swabbed for DNA in the saliva of the biter, the bite marks are also lifted using various photography techniques which enables the dentist to determine the depth, orientation, and size of the bite, ultimately it is then compared to suspects’ dental record. Bite mark analysis is a controversial technique in identifying a criminal, this is because, in recent times, there have been various exonerations through DNA evidence of people convicted based on bite mark analysis, an example is Roy Brown who had been convicted of murder in 1992 based solely on bite mark released after DNA results matched another suspect (Freeman, 2008).
Forensic dentists have claimed that they can match a bite with the only set of teeth in the world that can match the ones at the crime scene, however, as recent exonerations have shown, it is not possible. Using this technique in criminal cases is not substantial and should not be examined as the only evidence to convict a criminal. It is not the same as DNA evidence or fingerprint as many forensic dentists may have suggested. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence to establish the overwhelming need to use bite mark analysis as a technique in criminal cases.
Freeman, S. (2008). How Forensic Dentistry Works. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved on 18 November 2018 from https://science.howstuffworks.com/forensic-dentistry4.htm
Gorea, R. K., Jasuja, O. P., Abuderman, A. A., & Gorea, A. (2014). Bite marks on skin and clay: A comparative analysis. Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 4(4), 124-128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejfs.2014.09.002
Verma, A. K., Kumar, S., & Bhattacharya, S. (2013). Identification of a person with the help of bite mark analysis. Journal of oral biology and craniofacial research, 3(2), 88-91.