For More Information

While forensic odontology can be an extremely helpful tool, it must also be taken with a grain of salt. It can be extremely beneficial in identifications of victims of mass disasters, in age determination of victims or human remains in archaeological digs, or in identifying sexual abuse, especially within adolescents. However, forensic odontologists maintain that even such evidence in these cases must be accompanied by other compelling evidence, and that dental evidence cannot stand on its own.

Dental mold used as evidence in the case of Keith Allen HarwardA dental mold used as evidence in the case of Keith Allen Harward.

Bite mark analysis is much more akin to an artform than science and must therefore be heavily accompanied by other convincing and infallible evidence. It seems perfectly reasonable that forensic odontologists may have been extremely excited over the possibilities of the relatively new science, especially after its success in convicting Ted Bundy in 1979 and 1980. However, the use of bite mark analysis in criminal cases was applied too liberally following these convictions, especially in the 1980s, and have therefore seen quite a few convictions overturned. Using bite mark analysis as a basis for dental evidence should only be permissible if other dental evidence, such as saliva, is left behind and can be definitively identified.

While dental forensics is not as conclusive as other forensic sciences such as fingerprinting, it can help nudge officials in the correct direction, and provide additional evidence in cases such as Bundy’s.

For More Information

  1. Balachander, N., et al. “Evolution of forensic odontology: An overview” Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences 7, no. 1 (2015): S176-S180. 
  2. Balko, Radley. “Yet Another Bite-Mark Conviction is Unraveling.” The Washington Post, May 21, 2018.
  3. Berketa, John. “Not Your Typical Forensic Odontology Cases.” American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 2019.
  4. Cholodofsky, Rich. “Kunco, freed of rape conviction, pleads guilty to lesser charges; to be released.” Trib Live. August 2, 2019.
  5. Forensic Odontology: An Essential Guide, edited by Catherine Adams, Romina Carabott, and Sam Evans. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2014.
  6. Forensic Odontology: Principles and Practices, edited by Jane A. Taylor and Jule A. Kieser. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2016.
  7. Freeman, Adam & Iain Pretty. Construct validity of Bitemark assessments using the ABFO decision tree. Seattle: American Board of Forensic Odontology, 2015.
  8. Locke, Phil. “About Bite Mark Evidence - Forensic Odontology.” Center for the Global Study of Wrongful Conviction. The Wrongful Convictions Blog. September 4, 2012.
  9. Metcalf, Roger D. “Doyle v. State of Texas: The Bitemark Case That Started It All.” Roger D Metcalf, DDS, JD, Forensic Odontology.
  10. Metcalf, Roger D. & Janice W. Klim-Lemann. “Doyle: The Bitemark Case that Started It All!” American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 2019.
  11. Practical Forensic Odontology, edited by Derek H. Clark. Oxford: Wright, 1992.
  12. “Putting Teeth into Forensic Science.” Science Daily. June 16, 2010.
  13. Saks, Michael J., et al. “Forensic bitemark identification: weak foundations, exaggerated claims.” Journal of Law and the Biosciences 3, no. 3 (2016): 538-575.
  14. “Ted Bundy Biography,” Maven.
  15. Verma, Meenal, et al. “Dental age estimation methods in adults: An overview,” Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences 11, no. 2 (2020): 57-63.
  16. Voelker, Marsha A. “Forensic Dentistry History” Procter & Gamble,,

Guest Curator Hannah Thompson is a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Public History with a Museum Studies concentration at the University of South Carolina. She is interested in curating and historical research, completed this exhibit as part of the curatorial internship at the museum. When not completing history research, Hannah enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and baking.



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