Dental Identification - Case 1

History: Skeletonized remains were discovered in a public park. The initial cause of death was listed as homicide due to a bullet shot through the skull. Examination of the dentition showed an unusual pattern of extremely heavy lingual and incisal wear on the upper incisors. Anatomically, the rest of the upper and lower dentitions were unremarkable. In an effort to assist investigators with their search of missing persons, possible explanations for the anterior wear included anorexia/bulimia, pipe smoking, a wind instrument musician, i.e., clarinet and others (Case ID 1a).

Case ID 1a.
Photo of skull with lingual/incisal maxillary incisor wear.
Recovered skull with the interesting excessive lingual/incisal wear patterns on the maxillary incisors.

However, when the mandible was articulated with the skull, an interesting finding appeared. The victim had an open bite occlusion with no incisor contact (Case ID 1b).

Case ID 1b.
Photo showing rticulated mandible and skull showing anterior open bite
Articulated mandible and skull showing anterior open bite.

A subsequent search of the crime scene recovered a small caliber handgun. The handgun was registered out of state to a reported missing person. A suicide note was found in the missing's residence that stated the intention to commit suicide in a place where the remains could never be found or identified.

Law enforcement was able to obtain AM records from the missing person’s dentist. These were used to easily make the positive dental identification. Additional information revealed the decedent had a history of mental illness, including a habit of rubbing the thumbnails against the lingual surfaces of the upper incisors, thereby accounting for the abnormal wear patterns that were observed.