Forensic dentistry, sometimes used to aid in solving criminal cases involving bite marks, is the method of identifying people through the unique characteristics of their dental structures. While these techniques are often featured in crime scene dramas, there are only just over 100 dental experts in the United States and Canada certified by the American Board of Forensic Odontology. The requirements for board certification are rigorous, and until now a full-time academic-based program for dentists has not been available in the United States.
Using resources available through the Regional Forensic Center, the Department of General Dentistry has launched a new Forensic Dentistry Fellowship, chaired by O. Lee Wilson, DMD. The fellowship is a one-year program.
Under the guidance of Murray Marks, PhD, Associate Professor of General Dentistry and Regional Forensic Center forensic anthropologist, the program will expose the fellow to the training needed including workshops on Civil Litigation, Age Estimation, Disaster Victim Dental Identification, and Bite Mark Analysis. The fellow will also have hands-on case experience in dental identifications including oral autopsies and bite mark analysis. The Forensic Dentistry Fellowship will also include didactic training with rotations in Pathology, Radiology and Forensic Pathology.
Forensic Dentistry Fellowship faculty include Dr. Marks, William Bass, PhD, founder of UT’s forensic anthropology program and world-reknowned "Body Farm", and Richard Weems, DMD.
Dr. Weems is retired Associate Professor of Dental Radiology at University of Alabama School of Dentistry in Birmingham, Alabama. He now serves as chief forensic odontologist for the Office of the Medical Examiner of Jefferson County in Birmingham. He is current president of the American Society of Forensic Odontology and past odontology chairman of the American Academy of Forensic Science and secretary of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. He is now Clinical Associate Professor in the department of General Dentistry.
Murray Marks, PhD, Associate Professor of General Dentistry and Regional Forensic Center forensic anthropologist; William Bass, PhD, founder of UT’s forensic anthropology program; and Forensic Dentistry Fellow Dr. Paige Smalley are conducting research looking at the length of time it takes the periodontal ligament to decompose, which releases the teeth from the alveolar bone after exposure to a variety of natural elements such as temperature. The goal of this project is to provide forensic experts with another tool to determine approximate time since death.
The Department of General Dentistry offers a one-year Dental Operating Room Fellowship created to meet the growing demand of the special needs population. Dr. O. Lee Wilson, Chair, Dentistry, has been working with special needs children for more than 27 years through the Department of General Dentistry, and he has found that the best method to treat overly sensitive patients is to take them into the operating room so that they can be put to sleep under anesthesia.
Fellows who participate in the Dental Operating Room Fellowship are required to have completed one year of residency training, and two years is preferred. The applicant must possess a DMD/DDS and a State of Tennessee Dental License. During the program, the fellow will rotate between the departments of Anesthesia, Medicine, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and Pre-Op Clinic. The fellow will manage the Dental Simulation Center as well as teach and train the general practice residents. The fellow will also present at the Annual Special Care Dental Meeting. At the end of the one-year experience, the fellow will be properly equipped to practice in the operating room setting to treat the special needs population.
Dental fellowships are considered rare, and a mechanism for accreditation does not yet exist. A generous donation from Delta Dental will help fund the program.
""I find it interesting that by using something as little and unique as a tooth, I can help families identify a loved one,"
Paige Smalley, DMD
The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine
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