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13 April 2024

Decomposed body identified from teeth

Woman’s skull, teeth and face bones matched with the original person. (SUPPLIED)

By VM Sathish

Abu Dhabi Police have successfully identified a woman from the partially decomposed body and a totally damaged face using the most modern forensic methods.

According to Abu Dhabi Police, the Forensic Anthropology experts have successfully identified the deceased lady, whose partially decomposed body was found, but police could not identify her as the face was damaged.

Using the most modern technology coupled with anthropology and medical sciences, UAE and British forensic experts could successfully match the woman’s skull, teeth and face bones with the original person, said Said Al Nuaimi, an Anthropolgy Expert in the Abu Dhabi Police.

Dental identification is necessary when visual identification of a decomposed body is difficult. 

According to him, this is the first time in the UAE that a person has been identified from a decomposed body using modern forensic techniques. Identifying people from the dead bodies is not an easy task and often DNA test is conducted and matched with the body of another family member.

In normal circumstances, the dead body is identified from the clothes, identification papers, hair, body marks, etc. In certain cases, the teeth of the dead body are a unique tool to identify a person from the dental records of the deceased.

In this unique case, the front row teeth of the deceased were crucial in identifying the person. Teeth comparison methods are used to identify a person if the body is decomposed, mutilated or disfigured and in this case, teeth identification was crucial in identifying the woman.

According to Al Nuaimi, Abu Dhabi Police got a partially decomposed body of a woman, and her face was totally damaged. With the help of modern technology, an X-ray of the skull was taken. The teeth on the dead body were very useful in creating a computer generated face structure, which was later matched with the thousands of photographs in the database of the Immigration Department, and with the help of  forensic experts from the UK, the lady was finally identified with an existing photograph in the database, the Abu Dhabi Police said.

According to Abu Dhabi Police forensic anthropology – application of the science of physical anthropology to the identification of skeletal badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains – helped identify the lady.

Studying teeth to identify a dead person is called odontology. Human flesh decomposes after death, leaving the bone structure. In addition, a person’s appearance can alter quickly, depending on the environment the body is found in. Along with bone, the teeth are the most durable part of the body.

A majority of people are born with the same number and type of teeth. However each person has a unique dental pattern – an ideal feature helping identification by checking dental records. A forensic dentist examines the dead body, takes X-rays of the teeth, and makes a detailed written chart describing the teeth formation and work done to them.

The dentist’s findings can be compared with dental records, casts and radiographs to establish the person’s identity. A person who has frequently visited the dentist and had a lot of work done to his teeth is more easily traced through dental records. If there is no dental record of the person, dental profiling is done. A forensic dentist may work with a forensic anthropologist to build a model face of the deceased, based on the skull and dental structure.