IDing with Dental Records

So here I am watching that masterpiece, Hard Target, when they meantion that the heroine’s father was burned beyond recognition and they had to use his dental records from his war service to ID him. Can they ID people like that, just search through a data bank or are dental records just used to confirm the person is who you suspect they are?

AFAIK there is no “central repository” for dental records, unlike fingerprints. The only way they can identify someone through dental records is if they already suspect the person’s identity, but need to confirm it. In this case they can get the x-rays, etc from the person’s dentist and compare it with the teeth of the victim.

That’s correct. Speaking as an unpublished mystery writer, I understand that you have to have a probable ID so you know where to look for the dental records. After that, it’s a matter of comparing the work in the records with the decedent’s teeth. You have to pity the poor fellow looking into the mouth of the corpse.

BTW, there was a murder case in England in the 1920s or 1930s in which a corpse was found in a blazing garage. It was identified at first as an individual who recently went missing. Then, someone looked again and found that the teeth was not quite that of the missing man. It turned out the missing man had found a bum, killed him, worked his teeth to resemble his own (he was a dentist, I believe) and set the fire to hide evidence of the murder. He was caught and hung.

Actually, I think you’re remembering a murder mystery story, not an actual case.

“In the Teeth of the Evidence”, by Dorothy Sayers, starring Lord Peter Wimsey.

The Master speaks.