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Postmortem Dental Radiography

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Abstract: 

Comparison of postmortem and antemortem dental radiographic films or digital images is a common procedure for establishing identity of human remains. This article describes some problems with producing postmortem dental radiographs in a medical examiner setting and gives methods for circumventing these difficulties. Resection of the jaws, when permitted, significantly simplifies the postmortem radiographic technique. When producing an actual postmortem panoramic dental radiograph (orthopantomogram) from a dry skull, stabilization of the specimen for exposure by the moving beam source may be accomplished simply by placing the specimen upside down on an anthropologist’s skull ring. Image “burnout” in the anterior segment, which results from absence of the tissues of the neck, may be avoided by appropriate placement of radiodense objects such as “zippered” plastic bags filled with water or other fluid material, freezer gel packs, or a block of self-polymerizing acrylic. These methods may increase future postmortem dental radiography efficiency.
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Keywords: dental identification; forensic science; orthopantomogram; panoramic dental radiographs; postmortem dental radiographs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biologic and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Dentistry, Memphis, TN 38163. 2: Department of Clinical Affairs, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Dentistry, Memphis, TN 38163. 3: Department of Restorative Dentistry, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Dentistry, Memphis, TN 38163.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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