A disaster is considered to be any unexpected event leading to loss of human lives and property which may be due to human activity or any natural calamity (Dumancic et al., 2001). In any such event, a forensic dentist has a significant contribution in identification of an individual.  Any identification to be confirmed needs scientific basis. This can be done by two methods of identification, primary and secondary.  The identifiers DNA, finger prints and dental comparison are the three primary identifiers, and provide a strong basis for identification. In a developing country like Nepal, DNA usage is limited due to financial constraints. Fingerprints provide limited applicability owing to its scanty chances of retrieval in cases of burnt bodies or extensive post-mortem changes. Thus the third type of identifier tooth can be easily used due to its unique properties. The tooth being the hardest element of human body, and being unique to each individual can serve as the most reliable element in identification of the deceased (Ermenc and Rener, 1999). Forensic dentistry is considered to be an integral part of forensic science, as it contributes to identification of disaster victims (Shekar and Reddy, 2009) which is a priority  for social, ethical, and legal reasons (Dagalp et al., 2014).

Nepal has a long history of aircraft disasters.  There have been more than sixty air crashes over the years 1956 to 2014 and yet no odontologist was involved in the process of DVI.  The year 2012 marks the date in the history   of forensic dentistry in Nepal. As in the year 2012, the first post-mortem dental examination was conducted for Disaster Victim identification (DVI) in Nepal. The attempt was quite commendable as the victims were completely charred and visually unidentifiable with the first timers working on it. The two consultants without DVI background took the initiative to perform the dental charting. Then the dental charts were compared to ante mortem findings to identify the victims. This air crash also has another important addition to the history of identification in Nepal as the co-pilot was the first Nepali to be identified on dental findings. The total of 16 out of 19 victims was identified on dental findings collaborated with other secondary identifiers and the remaining on medical grounds (Dahal et al., 2014). Similarly, post-mortem dental examination had a significant contribution in identification during Nepal airlines crash (2014), mountain air helicopter crash (2015), Nepal earthquake (2015) and Avalanche following earthquake (2015). Other than DVI the Kathmandu autopsy center, Maharajgunj is involved with various other aspects of forensic dentistry on day to day practice such as identification, age estimation, bite mark analysis and research. The services provided by the center are quite commendable due to its unmatchable contribution to judicial system.

Though forensic dentistry has made a significant contribution in Nepal and established itself as an integral component of justidical proceeding in such a short span of time. .It still is in budding stage in Nepal which will certainly bloom with time by joining hands with various other specialties of forensic science.

References:

Chandra Shekar, B. and Reddy, C. (2009). Role of dentist in person identification. Indian Journal of Dental Research, 20(3), p.356.

Dagalp, R., Aka, P., Canturk, N. and Kedici, I. (2014). Age estimation from fetus and infant tooth and head measurements. Int J Legal Med, 128(3), pp.501-508.

Dahal, S., Agrawal, N. and Shrestha, P. (2014). Role of dentists in Disaster Victim Identification of Sita air crash, Nepal. Journal of Institute of Medicine, (2), pp.97-101.

Dumaneic, J., Kaic, N.,Brkic, H. andZeeevic, D. (2001).Dental Identification after Two Mass Disasters in Croatia. Croat Med J, 42, pp. 657-662.

Ermenc, B. and Rener, K. (1999). Possibilities for dental identification in the case of mass disaster in Slovenia. Forensic Science International, 103, pp.S67-S75.

 


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