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Sci Justice. 2013 Dec;53(4):433-41. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Jul 2.

Teeth as a source of DNA for forensic identification of human remains: a review.

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Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Environment Institute, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia. Electronic address:


Teeth and bones are frequently the only sources of DNA available for identification of degraded or fragmented human remains. The unique composition of teeth and their location in the jawbone provide additional protection to DNA compared to bones making them a preferred source of DNA in many cases. Despite this, post-mortem changes in the structure and composition of teeth, and the location and diagenesis of DNA within them are poorly understood. This review summarises current knowledge of tooth morphology with respect to DNA content and preservation, and discusses the way in which post-mortem changes will affect the recovery of DNA from teeth under a range of commonly used extraction protocols. We highlight the benefits and pitfalls of using specific tooth tissues for DNA extraction and make recommendations for tooth selection and sampling that will maximise DNA typing success. A comprehensive understanding of tooth structure and an appreciation of the relationship between DNA and mineralized tissues in post-mortem teeth are critical for optimal sample selection. More informed sampling methods that target specific tooth tissues will increase the likelihood of successful genetic analysis and allow for efficient and timely missing persons case work and disaster victim identification response.


DNA; Human identification; Teeth

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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