Archive for October, 2012

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How to put a name to a (skull) face Part 1- Teeth.

October 5, 2012

As promised here is the first in the series of ‘How to put a name to a (skull) face’.  Enjoy!

If you’re anything like us you have trouble putting a name to the  face of a living person, let alone a dead one.  Luckily there is highly trained professionals to do it for us, but how do they do it?  The identifying features that may normally be used have probably long since disappeared- no moles, birthmarks or tattoos, or in the case of Ned Kelly- no spiffy quiff and awesome beard…  One way we can identify is by looking at teeth.

Teeth- is there any limit to what they can do?  They help you eat… they make your smile pretty… well maybe that’s all, but what is cool is that they may still be of use after your death.

Although not quite as individually exclusive as a fingerprint, our teeth do hold some distinctive traits.  If there is dental records available, it may be a matter of just looking and comparing (although not as simple as it sounds).  The number, shape, cavities, fillings, root canals all give points of comparison for dental records and Xrays.

This picture from here shows us how you can compare Xrays taken while still alive (right) can be compared to ones taken after death (left).

However, even if there are no dental Xrays available, teeth can still give an indication and hints towards an identity.

Such is the case with this guy, whose story can be seen in this paper.  Despite the lack of dental records, specialists were able to gain a wealth of information from the teeth- including that he was a male caucasian smoker aged between 25-35.

But of course teeth are not always the answer.  As you might recall from our picture of the (supposed) skull of Ned Kelly a fair few of his top ones were missing and others were looking worse for wear.  There are other ways we can identify our mystery skulls… But you will have to hold out for Part 2!

And we need to put the disclaimer on here that this info is for purely academic purposes…. if you happen to find a random nameless skull while walking down the street- call the Police.