Since 9/11, standards, technology advance

Efforts of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics came to fruition with an American National Standards Institute-approved ANSI/ADA Specification No. 1058 for Forensic Dental Data Set, a national standard designed to assist dentists and dental professionals in establishing positive identification of human remains.

International agencies “struggling to normalize their codes” and update dental standards are using the ADA document “as a starting point,” said Dr. Kenneth Aschheim, chair of ADA’s SCDI Joint Working Group 10.12 on Forensic Odontology Informatics and assistant chief forensic odontologist for New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, as well as an associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The ADA Council on Dental Practice has proposed a 2012 annual session course on the importance of dental forensics in human identification and development of a standard for forensic dental data.

“Dental identification was able to play such an important role in the September 11th disaster in part because premortem dental records in the United States were, generally, highly complete and readily available,” says the Forensic Laboratory Handbook: Procedures and Practice, Section 4.3.1. Mass Disasters. “In order to handle the huge amount of data, forensic odontologists working on the September 11th disaster used a computerized dental identification system called WinID,” the handbook says.

His WinID system “was able to handle the simultaneous challenge of the identification of victims of a Dominican bound American Airlines flight while the NYC medical examiner’s office continued with the aftermath of September 11th,” said Dr. James McGivney.

“In the mid 2000s, WinID3 incorporated the ability to interface with digital radiographic equipment. This led to the concept of a paperless dental identification system, where all postmortem dental information such as dental charting, WinID codes and digital radiographs and photographs are directly entered into the computer. The paperless system was successfully used in the Hurricane Katrina disaster.”

WinID is used by forensic dentists, forensic odontologists, pathologists, coroners, medical examiners, forensic anthropologists and law enforcement and criminal justice systems “to identify the unknown,” said Dr. McGivney. WinID is one of several available forensic dental computer systems. According to The Forensic Laboratory Handbook, Interpol, for example, offers a disaster victim identification (DVI) system, which is a general purpose forensic tool with dental identification capabilities.