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Med Law. 1993;12(6-8):487-91.

The role of forensic dentistry in South Africa.

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Department of Oral Pathology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.


Forensic dentistry has become an integral part of forensic medicine over the past 100 years. This has been due to the dedication of people like Amoedo, Gustafson, Sognaes, Keiser-Nielsen and Suzuki, to name but a few. They established the essential role which forensic dentistry plays mainly in the identification of human remains. Dental hard tissues are extremely resistant to fire and are usually the only remains after an extended period of burial. If antemortem dental records are available for an individual then dental identification is as certain as those of fingerprints. In South Africa forensic dentistry had its beginning in 1969 during the Windhoek air disaster. Since then there have been several cases of interest throughout the country, one of which was the crash of the Helderberg off the coast of Mauritius. Other aspects of forensic dentistry are the examination of bite marks and the recognition of facial trauma especially in cases of child abuse; the determination of age, sex and race of skeletal remains; dental ethics and jurisprudence as well as malpractice also form part of the duties of the forensic dentist. The five dental schools in South Africa each have a forensic team which is consulted on a regular basis by forensic pathologists and district surgeons. Forensic dentists are active members of the medicolegal team and should be consulted on a regular basis especially in cases where identification is concerned.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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