Oral Cavity: A Fingerprint

man in white dress shirt wearing black hat

It’s remarkable that our oral cavity can reveal our identity. The mouth constitutes teeth, tongue, lip, mucosa, and other oral structures. To an average person, it’s just the same for everyone. But actually, it is unique for a person. It may be similar but not identical. The uniqueness is attributed to various factors.

  • Developmental anomaly- Various congenital defects, developmental anomalies such as peg-shaped laterals, taurodontism, Leong’s cusp in the premolar and many more are present in our oral cavity (Figure 1). It depends on the genetic makeup and other environmental conditions during tooth development.
Figure 1: Developmental anomalies (Image source: doi:10.7759/cureus.9961)
  • Oral diseases- Based on a person’s hygiene practices, food habits, lifestyles and systemic conditions, a person suffers from various oral diseases such as dental caries, periodontal disorders, oral ulcers and many more. It also depends upon the person’s immunity and genetic makeup. 
  • Age- Due to the unique eruption pattern of the dentition, a different set of dentitions can be observed in every stage of a person’s life. A dentist can easily guess the person’s age by looking into the patient’s dentition.
  • Occupation- There are some changes in the soft and hard tissue of the oral cavity due to the professional activities of a person. These changes can then form a unique identification feature and tells about the person’s occupation. 
  • Race- Few dental and skeletal elements are predominantly present in the oral cavity belonging to a particular race.

Many more factors present are beyond the scope of this discussion. But the main point is that if we evaluate this carefully, we can get n number of combinations of these features, which makes every mouth a unique entity. We can also say that an oral cavity is just like a fingerprint. It is well-known that no two fingerprints are the same, even in identical twins. Our oral fingerprint is also unique and can serve as an essential tool for identification.

The question arises from where the point of identification comes from. The answer is when the catastrophe struck; it is the time when there are chances of our documents being lost (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Types of mass disaster

India’s geographical condition makes it prone to many types of disasters. This condition takes everything from us, our records, belongings, and even our loved ones. We seem helpless when our loved ones are missing. We have to search them from the heaps of rotten, decayed and burnt dead bodies where facial identification is nearly impossible (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Figure 3: From left to right, burnt, mutilated, putrified remains of disaster victims (Image source: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-59745-099-7_18)

Our oral fingerprint can take charge of identification (Figure 4). Identification is required either for assuring the family members that their loved ones had been found or issue of death certificate in legal matters like insurance claims, wills etc. or to apprehend the suspect in case of homicide.

Figure 4: Figure 4: Dental findings in an X-ray of a mass disaster victim (Image source: DOI  – 10.4323/rjlm.2016.168)

The factors that make our oral cavity a unique space can reveal a person’s age, gender, origin, occupation, past diseases, etc.

We know that among the many other roles like chewing, speaking, and digestion, our oral cavity can help forensic identification. This information can open a new path for every practising dentist towards becoming a forensic dentist.

The best part of this field is just the simple knowledge of routine dentistry; one can easily help identify disaster victims.

Dr Mayuri G Soni

Senior Assistant Editor, Genomeden


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.