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Identification Through X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis of Dental Restorative Resin Materials: A Comprehensive Study of Noncremated, Cremated, and Processed-Cremated Individuals

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Tooth-colored restorative materials are increasingly being placed in the practice of modern dentistry, replacing traditional materials such as amalgam. Many restorative resins have distinct elemental compositions that allow identification of brand. Not only are resins classifiable by elemental content, but they also survive extreme conditions such as cremation. This is of significance to the forensic odontologist because resin uniqueness adds another level of certainty in victim identification, especially when traditional means are exhausted. In this three-part study, unique combinations of resins were placed in six human cadavers (total 70 restorations). Simulated ante-mortem dental records were created. In a blind experiment, a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) unit was used to locate and identify the resin brands placed in the dentition. The technique was successful in location and brand identification of 53 of the restorations, which was sufficient to enable positive victim identification among the study group. This part of the experiment demonstrated the utility of portable XRF in detection and analysis of restorative materials for victim identification in field or morgue settings. Identification of individuals after cremation is a more difficult task, as the dentition is altered by shrinkage and fragmentation, and may not be comparable with a dental chart. Identification of processed cremains is a much greater challenge, as comminution obliterates all structural relationships. Under both circumstances, it is the nonbiological artifacts that aid in identification. Restorative resin fillings can survive these conditions, and can still be named by brand utilizing elemental analysis. In a continuation of the study, the cadavers were cremated in a cremation retort under standard mortuary conditions. XRF was again used to analyze retrieved resins and to identify the individuals based on restorative materials known to exist from dental records. The cremains were then processed and the analysis was repeated to determine whether restorative resins could be found under this extreme condition. Under both circumstances, sufficient surviving resin material was found to distinguish positively each individual in the study group. This study showed the utility of XRF as an analytical tool for forensic odontology and also the significance of the role of restorative resins in victim identification, even after cremation.
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Keywords: XRF; cremains; forensic odontology; forensic science; restorative composite resins; victim identification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Restorative Dentistry, School of Dental Medicine, SUNY at Buffalo, B1 Squire Hall, S. Campus, Buffalo, NY 14214. 2: Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, SUNY at Buffalo, 355 Squire Hall, S. Campus, Buffalo, NY 14214. 3: Department of Pathology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, and Department of Anthropology, SUNY at Buffalo, N. Campus, Buffalo NY 14261. 4: South Campus Instrument Center, School of Dental Medicine, SUNY at Buffalo, B1 Squire Hall, S. Campus, Buffalo, NY 14214.

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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