Teeth: the tree rings of forensics

The latest in my ‘Learn Something New Every Day’ series… Taken from The Great Courses’ Trails of Evidence – How Forensic Science Works lecture series (Lecture 24 – Teeth and Bite marks)

A baby is (generally) born with all its teeth already present in its jaw. They form from, in-utero, from about 6 weeks of gestation age in vacant pockets in the jawbone call ‘crypts’ (not creepy at all!). The reason toddlers start losing their baby (primary) teeth at around 6 months in the outside world is because their crypts (not creepy at all!) have been busy forming the enamel-encrusted crown of their future adult teeth. These crowns destabilise the baby teeth and push them out like impatient cuckoos.

Science now knows that the ‘stresses’ an infant/toddler undergoes (birth, weaning, paediatric accidents or illnesses) show up in the enamel of their adult teeth in horizontal lines called linear enamel hypoplasis. And forensic dentists can use these marks to try and determine whether a person had a particularly high incidence of bodily stress in their life.

They won’t tell you secrets but they will help paint a picture of someone’s early life.





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