Indian Journal of Multidisciplinary Dentistry

: 2018  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 94--100

Software in forensic odontology

P Anuja, Nagabhushana Doggalli 
 Department of Forensic Odontology, JSS Dental College and Hospital, JSS AHER, Mysore, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Nagabhushana Doggalli
Department of Forensic Odontology, JSS Dental College and Hospital, JSS AHER, Mysore - 570 015, Karnataka


Let us now pause for a moment of science!! Technological advances are becoming more and more important in forensic sciences these days. Forensic odontology plays a major role in identifying those individuals who cannot be identified visually or by other means. Various software, such as Windows Identification, Disaster and Victim Identification (DAVID) and automated dental identification system (ADIS), have been developed that greatly help in easier identification. With the development of various software such as Adobe Photoshop and Dentascan, it is possible to scan the dentition of a deceased within minutes. The various post processing software like Adobe Photoshop (Adobe Systems Incorporated, San Jose, California) allows visualization of the data adapted to every possible antemortem X-ray for identification. This review describes the significance of various software used in forensic odontology.

How to cite this article:
Anuja P, Doggalli N. Software in forensic odontology.Indian J Multidiscip Dent 2018;8:94-100

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Anuja P, Doggalli N. Software in forensic odontology. Indian J Multidiscip Dent [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 Aug 13 ];8:94-100
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Forensic odontology has been defined by the Federation Dentaire Internationale as that branch of dentistry which in the interest of justice, deals with the proper handling and examination of dental evidence, and with the proper evaluation and presentation of dental findings. It primarily deals with identification based on dental characteristics that are unique to every individual.[1] The enamel being the hardest tissue in the human body withstands peri and postmortem (PM) changes and environmental challenges, thereby ensuring the reliability of dental evidence. The importance of victim identification, in the face of disasters, is valued worldwide. It helps in resolving serious legal and social predicaments as well as provides closure to grieving families. The identification of the deceased is usually performed visually by the next of kin; however, this method is neither reliable nor desirable when there are multiple fatalities, PM decomposition, or in cases of violent deaths such as road traffic accidents or brutal murders. It is in these circumstances that forensic science plays a role in the identification process. DNA analysis, fingerprints, and dental characteristics are regarded as the scientific methods of identification. Nortje (1986) stated that “radiographic appearance of teeth and bone of the face is a permanent record of these tissues even when teeth and sections of the bone are removed for histopathologic examination.”[2] The uniqueness of each dentition and the ability of teeth to sustain harsh conditions make dental characteristics a reliable and often the only source of identification available.[3] Technology has grown by leaps and bounds and has become an integral part of our daily lives. Hence, it comes as no surprise that technology has crept into the field of forensics, thus leading to a separate branch called computer forensics.

Computer forensics can be traced back to as early as 1984 when the Federation Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratory and other law enforcement agencies had begun developing programs to examine computer evidence. Computer forensics is the process of conducting an examination into the contents of the data on a computer system using state-of-the-art techniques to determine if evidence exists that can aid in internal or legal investigations.[4] In the past few decades, it has been observed that software technology has emerged as an indispensable part of forensic odontology. This article has attempted to highlight the salient features of various software that are currently in use.

 Historical Background

Manually comparing dental radiographs of antemortem (AM) and PM data to obtain a positive identification is a tedious task and also time-consuming. Therefore, to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and lower the costs, the computer-aided software was developed to help cope with the increasing demand to obtain faster means of identification. In 1997, the criminal justice information services division of FBI created a dental task force to improve the utilization and effectiveness of the national crime information center's missing and unidentified persons file. Therefore, the digital image repository (DIR) was created.

Two systems have been developed, the computer-assisted PM identification (CAPMI) and Windows Identification (Win ID) that enhance matches of missing persons to unidentified persons using dental and anthropometric characteristics. CAPMI was one of the first systems to be developed for this purpose in the 1980s. Several systems have been developed since then, but they only provided a small amount of automation and required a great deal of human intervention. Therefore, the automated dental identification system (ADIS) was developed.[1]

Computer-assisted postmortem identification

As the computer applications were developed, the ability to simply list or catalog cases evolved into “search and match” capabilities. The first dental application to do this was CAPMI, developed by Lorton, Langley, and Weed (programming specialist) in the late 1980s at the bioengineering branch of US Army Institute of Dental Research. It was used by US military in many mass disasters and later by many forensic odontologists. The CAPMI program was used to assist in the identification of victims in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1995 and in the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island, New York in 1996.[5] The computer software in CAPMI functions by comparing the dental codes extracted from the AM and PM dental records. Depending on the number of matching dental characteristics, the program creates a list of the candidates. The forensic odontologist then performs a visual comparison of dental radiographs of susceptible candidates.


The dental codes used in this system are based on the characteristics of the dental work and not on the inherent dental features.[6]

Automated dental identification system

Dr. Eiko Kosuge et al., in Japan, developed the ADIS with government support under grant no. EIA– 0131079 from the National Science Foundation. It is a process automation tool, for PM identification that has been designed to achieve accurate and timely identification results with the minimum amount of human intervention and containing the ability to search subject dental records from the DIR to find a minimum set of candidate records that have high similarities to the subject based on image comparison.[1] [Figure 1] shows the basic functioning of ADIS.{Figure 1}

Components of automated dental identification system

Architecturally, ADIS is composed of three main components as follows:

Dental record preprocessing component, which involves several segmentations and classification steps to isolate each tooth and determine their class (incisors, canines, premolars, and molars)The search and retrieval component manages the archiving, searching and retrieval of dental records to produce a candidate list of matches. The desirable features of this stage are speed and accuracyThe image comparison component registers and compares two sets of dental records and is used during the search process. This process can be computationally intensive.[7]


Absence of antemortem records. The dental features may change with time especially if the PM images are captured a long time after the AM images were captured. This may lead to discrepancies during matching. In case of distortion of the teeth, the system may not function.

Windows identification/windows identification 3

Win ID was developed by Dr. Jim McGivney as an expanded and enhanced Windows version of the earlier disk operating system-based CAPMI program.[8] This Windows-based program has been used in numerous mass disasters including terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and the EF 5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri in 2011.[5] WinID3, the latest version of Win ID, employs several modes of searching the database for matching the records. This allows for the comparison of a record (AM or PM) against all opposing databases (PM or AM) records in the database, with the resulting possible matches displayed and linked for further visual comparison. The search results are displayed in five separate tables as most dental hits, least dental matches, most restoration hits, most identifier matches, and fuzzy dental logic.[9] WinID3 uses an intuitive algorithm that gives it the ability not only to sort for requested identifiers but also to compensate and not eliminate identifier changes that have occurred due to the reasonable and explainable differences. For instance, a tooth that is reported as virgin or nonrestored in an antemortem record and shown as restored in a PM record will not be eliminated from consideration because the time lapse between the two allows for work to have been done on that particular tooth. It also has numerous open categories other than the dental section that can be used by other disciplines to sort and search for information.

WinId3 may be used in several languages and using metric versus English measurements and numbering systems. In the mid-2000s, Dr. McGivney developed a bridge with DEXIS (a digital radiography applicator for the management of dental radiographs and all other photographs associated with a particular record). This allows WinID3 to combine dental charting with the radiographic/photographic record for a seamless integrated system of case review and comparison[5] as shown in [Figure 2].{Figure 2}

Disaster victim identification system international

Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) System International was developed by Plass Data (Holbaek, Denmark) software and is used by international criminal police organization (INTERPOL) for international disasters including the response to 2004 Tsunami in Thailand. The DVI is a total mass disaster program, and the dental section is an integrated part of that system. The dental system has a good graphics for charting and works well in sorting for restorations and dental conditions. It allows dental radiographs to be entered in a template type section for later review.


It depends on outside scanning of conventional radiographs. This means that the dental identification team has to insert images into the database. Furthermore, the dental section is not available as a standalone program, and thus the entire DVI System International must be obtained to utilize the dental component.[5]

Unified victim identification system/unified victim identification system dental identification module

Unified victim identification system (UVIS/ UDIM) is a robust mass DVI software (Danish DVI Group in Cooperation) that manages and coordinates all activities related to missing persons and victim identification. UVIS dental identification module is the dental recording or search component of the system. It was developed by Dr. Kenneth Aschheim in consultation with forensic odontologists of NYC office of Chief Medical Examiner and was released in 2007. It includes a self-correcting coding interface, unique color-coded odontogram for quick searches and comparisons, and partial jaw highlights both explainable and unexplainable discrepancies. The application is easy to use and works in a similar fashion to WinID3 and true to the same it also has a direct bridge with DEXIS to allow information to flow between the two programs.


This system requires a web server as well as standardized query language server and cannot be used on a stand-alone laptop. Furthermore, some amount of expertise is required to get it installed and running.[5]

Disaster and victim identification

In 1997, an internally supported but unfunded pilot project at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Australia, led to the development of a computer system which closely mimicked INTERPOL paperwork for the storage, retrieval, and tentative matching of the many AM and PM dental records that are often needed for rapid DVI. The program was called disaster and victim identification (DAVID).[9] [Table 1] below compares the main features of DAVID and WinID3. DAVID has a Graphic-User Interface, making data entry simple and efficient. DAVID has several matchable dental characteristics such as deciduous dentition and prosthodontic work. [Figure 3] depicts a typical PM screen display of DAVID.{Table 1}{Figure 3}


In DAVID and WinID3, the algorithm used is not equipped to match fragmented remains with root canal treatments.[3]

Adobe photoshop

Adobe Photoshop (San Jose, California, United States) is a raster graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Systems. Photoshop was created by Thomas and John Knoll in 1988. Ever since it has become the standard in raster graphics editing. It can edit and compose images in multiple layers. An advantage of Photoshop is that it can support graphic file formats.[10]

In forensic odontology, Adobe Photoshop is used in bite mark analysis, measurement of pulp tooth ratio (PTR) and root apices, and comparison of AM and PM images. The advantages include selecting a region of interest and manipulating the image to suit the odontologist's needs. The resolution can be altered in order that it may be compatible with the original photograph. Based on the requirements of the odontologist, the opacity of individual layers can be increased or decreased.[11] The ability to enhance the incisal details plays a crucial role in comparison of bite marks. The ABFO has laid down a flowchart for bite mark analysis.[12] The use of software decreases the duration of analysis and increases the accuracy of the findings. Smartphones have invaded our lives and photography has become a part of one's daily routine, making it possible to obtain casual smile photographs of people. Thus, digital superimposition of AM and PM photographs to compare the proportion, shape, and position of teeth aiding in identification is possible.[13]

GNU image manipulation program

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). It is a freely distributed program and can perform tasks such as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring.[14]


In November 1995, Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball at Berkeley University developed an application called the General Image Manipulation Program, “The GIMP,” later renamed to just GIMP. It started with the release of GIMP 0.54 in 1996.

GIMP in forensic odontology

It is an image processing app that aids in forensic odontological analysis such as measuring pulp and tooth area, calculating gonial angle, and assessing translucency area and two-dimensional (2D) analysis of bite marks. The latest version is GIMP 2.8.4. It is free to download at It can be used as a replacement/substitute for other image processing apps.[15]


One cannot view multiple items in a single-window mode. There are not many automated features that are included here.[10]

Auto computer-aided design

Auto computer-aided design (Auto CAD) is a software (San Rafael, California, United States) application for 2D and three-dimensional (3D) CAD, developed and marketed by Autodesk, Inc. AutoCAD is used across a wide array of industries, including architectures, project managers, and engineers, among other professions. It is basically an engineer's software and hence requires prior training to know how to operate.[2]

In Forensic Odontology, AutoCAD aids in PTR analysis, comparison of AM and PM images, and in various odontometric analysis. The ability of this software to produce 3D images aides in better corroboration of features in the image to produce accurate findings.

Image J

Image J is a Java-based image processing program (public domain). It was developed at the National Institute of Health, a biomedical research facility located in Maryland, USA. It can perform various functions such as display, editing, analyzing, processing, saving, and printing of images. It has the ability to calculate area and pixel value statistics of selections defined by the user.[2] In Forensic Odontology, Image J is used in all odontometric analysis such as measurement of the area of teeth, the angle of rotation of teeth,[16] and image comparison. Image J is also used in facial analysis.[17]


It is a computed tomography imaging-based software developed by GE Health Care, UK. Using this software, one can reformat and reconstruct the images to suit the needs of the forensic odontologist. This can then be compared to AM radiographic images. The advantage of Dentascan is that noninvasive and digital documentation is possible without the need for jaw resection, which is usually the case in charred and mutilated corpses.[11]


Short for applications, apps have become an integral part of one's life. There is a wide array of applications available that ease not only day-to-day activities but also aide in tranquilizing the difficulties in the academic field. Hence, it comes as no surprise that forensic odontology has also incorporated the use of apps to further enhance the process of identification.

Selfie forensic ID

This is the first app that uses a selfie smile for dental identification. Proposed by Dr. Emilio Nuzzolese, forensic odontologist, Bari (Italy), this app was presented at the forensic odontology conference organized by an international organization of forensic odontostomatology, Leuven, Belgium, September 2017. People using Android or iPhone operating system smartphones can download the app and take selfies representing their upper and lower front teeth and disseminate the recorded image with their name, location, and country through the social networks. This increases the archive of dental data and aides in analysis of missing and unidentified persons.

Selfie and social media have garnered inevitable attention of most people. Thus, combining the two to aide in forensic odontological identification will fasten the process and help bring down the count of unidentified bodies. By highlighting the anterior teeth, it is possible to include or exclude compatible or noncompatible subjects with the biological profile of the subject to be identified.[18] The greatest advantage of this method is that it helps people contribute to the dental archive/dental database with just a click of a button.

Age calculator

There are several apps available to choose from that help in accurate calculation of age, age calculator being the most common among them. One can know the exact age of a person by entering the individual's date of birth. These apps are available as free downloads and are extremely useful, especially in cases, where time is of the essence.

Superimposition software

Superimposition of images to help in the identification process as well as to ascertain whether a suspect is guilty or not plays a crucial role in facial reconstruction, comparison of AM and PM photographs, and bite mark analysis. Adobe Photoshop image-editing software (Adobe Systems Incorporated, San Jose, CA, USA) has been used to obtain a positive dental identification using tooth anatomy by digital superimposition. It is one of the most common and extensively used software world over.


With the absence of AM radiographs, digital superimposition has proved to be a useful tool in obtaining a positive identification.[19] Adobe Photoshop has also been extensively used in bite mark analysis by digital superimposition of the incisal edges of the suspect with the bite mark of the victim. It is, however, being replaced by newer software that is relatively simple to use.

GNU image manipulation program

GIMP is a free to download software at It can be used to perform several forensic odontological analyses including 2D digital analysis of bite marks by superimposition of the incisal edges of the suspect's dentition with the bite mark of the victim. This aides in obtaining a degree of certainty to which the dentition/bite edges correspond with the bite mark.[20] Various software has been developed specifically for superimposition of images, and several more are being developed, to assist the forensic odontologist to obtain quicker results.


It has been said that the next world war will be fought with bits and bytes, not bullets and bombs. Technological advances are increasing at breakneck speed. Hence, it is important to keep pace with them and inculcate them into the field of forensic odontology to improve the efficacy of the forensic odontologist. Computer-aided applications hasten the identification process and the various X-ray image segmentation techniques further improve its accuracy.[17] Identification plays a crucial role in mass disasters, medicolegal investigations, and natural calamities as well as in cases of impersonation. Although DNA and fingerprinting are the standard identification techniques, they have their drawbacks. In some cases, they may be destroyed. Furthermore, the time required to obtain results is a deterring factor. In such cases, forensic odontology seems to be the only means of identification. In one of the worst terrorist attacks to have occurred on Indian soil, the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the juvenility of the accused, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was questioned. It was a forensic odontologist and a radiologist who proved that he was not a juvenile.[21] Impersonating a face or fingerprint is possible, however, it is extremely difficult to impersonate the dental traits of an individual, thereby making forensic odontology a reliable tool for identification. Thus, it is of prime importance to develop a strong national database of dental records equipped with the latest technologies that would aid the forensic odontologist in proper and quicker identification.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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