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Bitemark evidence and analysis should be approached with caution, according to UB study
Date:9/16/2009

with similarly aligned teeth; is it possible to determine how many individuals from a larger sample might also be considered as the biter; and, if there is bite pattern distortion, is it enough to rule out a specific biter while still including a non-biter?

To answer these questions, the researchers gathered 100 stone dental models (replicas of the dentition), which were measured and divided into 10 groups based upon the misalignment patterns of the teeth. After randomly selecting one model from each of the 10 groups, the researchers impressed bitemarks on cadaver skin. After the bitemarks were created, they were then photographed and the indentations were compared to the dentitions using overlays created with photographic software.

The authors are one of the first to use a human skin model rather than animal models or non-elastic biting substrate, such as wax or Styrofoam. Current human subject restrictions limit experimentation on living subjects.

"Living bitten tissue may bleed or bruise," explains Miller. "The initial bitemark indentations rebound shortly after infliction often leaving a diffuse bruising that may be difficult to measure accurately. The indentations produced in our study represented the best conditions for measurement."

The results indicated that when dental alignments were similar, it was difficult to distinguish which set of teeth made the bites. Distortion noted in the bitemarks allowed matches even from different alignment groups. Therefore, the researchers concluded that bitemarks should be very carefully evaluated in criminal investigations where perpetrator identity is the focus of a case.

As Miller notes, "In the past 10 years, the number of court cases involving bitemark evidence that have been overturned led us to question the reasons for the erroneous bitemark identification. It's important to recognize the serious consequences of a misidentification for the accused, the victim, the families involved, the jus
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Contact: Sara Saldi
saldi@buffalo.edu
716-645-4539
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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