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Lessons Learned From Large-Scale Comparative Dental Analysis Following the South Asian Tsunami of 2004

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 51 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2006 Pages: 109-112
Jules A. Kieser Ph.D.; Wayne Laing B.D.S; Peter Herbison M.Sc.
Date Published
January 2006
4 pages
This study examined the quality of the antemortem (AM) and postmortem (PM) dental data used in attempts to identify victims of the tsunami of December 26, 2004, in Thailand.
The dental data examined were submitted for entry into the PLASSdata system in Phuket, Thailand. The authors of this paper, who assessed these dental records, were part of the New Zealand Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team that worked in Phuket between January 16 and February 7, 2005. For the PM dental data on victims, there was only a moderate standard for charting, radiographs, and photographs submitted by dental volunteers. Of the 78 PM dental records received, only 68 percent of radiographs and 49 percent of photographs confirmed the PM dental charting. In 28 percent of chartings considered to be of good quality, PM radiographs indicated charting errors. The percentage increased to 47 percent for dental PM photographs. In the future, there should be formal induction sessions for all volunteers at the location of the PM examinations. The most important lesson learned in compiling victims' AM dental records was that they should be compiled in the country of origin by a forensically trained dentist or team of dentists. The protocol and financial support for such an effort should be provided by each country through a central identification agency whose operations are compatible with international guidelines. To determine the quality of the PM dental data entered into the PLASSdata system, the authors reviewed the characteristics of each of the three sets of input: dental PM charting, radiographs, and photographs. Quality of charting was ranked based on features such as clarity of writing and drawing as well as compliance with Interpol instructions. Radiographs were rated according to criteria adapted from Helminen et al. The completeness and clarity of AM files was measured by Interpol protocols. 4 tables and 23 references