Ah yes, those are Mr Smiths teeth.

So the police find a body. It’s burned beyond recognition and (not suprisingly) has no ID. According to the movie I watched last night, the police are able to identify the poor unfortunate chap by his dental records.

How on Earth does this work? Does he have his dentists card on him, even though he has no ID? Do the police do a ring round asking dentists if they have noticed any of their patients missing? Do they visit every dentist in a hundred mile radius and spend hours matching fillings and overbites? Is there some huge dental x-ray database?

What happens to someone like me, who due to having a massive dentist fear usually makes such a dick of myself at dentist visits that I haven’t visited the same one twice since I was a teenager?

Or is this just movie/telly bollocks and police rarely can identify a body based on just their teeth?

(I’m not planning the perfect murder…in case you were worried)

I seem to remember hearing that it is more a case of confirming the identity of a person already reported missing, so you’d find a body, collect up all the missing person reports that were consistent with the estimated time/date of death and the height/build/gender etc of the deceased, retrieve the dental records of the selected folks, then compare them with the corpse.

Mangetout basiocally has it. Additionally, the police investigators may also have some idea of who the body may belong to, due to physical similarities to an individual known to be missing, or suspected of having been the victim of foul play. They would locate this person’s dental records and do the comparison as noted.

Thank you Mangetout and Q.E.D.

So basicly dental records are only used for confirmation of ID not actually discovering who the John Doe is?

So what happens in the case of someone who does not have a dentist or has not been reported missing? Do they just stay as a John Doe?

Straight Dope Staff Report on How can they identify people from their dental records?

There are other ways of identifying remains, including, but not limited to: scars, tattoos, unique personal items on the body, fingerprints, DNA and x-rays (to reveal old skeletal fractures). Of course all of these require the location of records of some sort, or in the case of DNA, at least the DNA of the victim’s parents or siblings.