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Just Science Podcast: Just Case Studies: Episode 22: From Teeth to Trafficking

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2017
2 pages

This online audio from the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Just Science podcast series on forensic science case studies consists of an interview with Dr. John Kenney, a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, in which he discusses the role of forensic dentistry in criminal cases that involve the trafficking of children and youth for commercial sex, with attention to a number of cases in which forensic odontologists are aiding the justice system through age estimation.


The first part of the interview focuses on Kenney's career pathway into dentistry and then into the forensic aspects of dentistry. The second issue addressed is human trafficking and Kenney's experience with and knowledge of human trafficking of children for the sex trade. He notes some of the contexts in which children are marketed for sex, including massage parlors, major events that draw thousands of people for over-night lodging, and truck stops. The interview then turns to a discussion of how forensic dentistry has a role in the criminal investigation of child trafficking for the sex trade. Dentists have the knowledge and training that enables them to determine a child or youth's approximate age. This is important in determining how to charge traffickers, since the penalties are harsher for persons engaged in trafficking children and youth under age 18. Kenney's interview also covers how forensic odontology uses scientifically based knowledge of tooth development to estimate age. A brief discussion of court testimony by forensic dentists emphasizes the importance of scientific objectivity in rendering an opinion as evidence.

Date Published: October 1, 2017