how does a study of dentition help the anthropologist in identifying a body?
Dentition is generally accepted as the single best indicator of age from birth to about age 25, and is also used in conjunction with other physical attributes to determine age in bodies older than 25. Obviously being able to determine the deceased's age would go a long way toward determining his or her identity.
Differing dental patterns in various ethnic groups have been widely studied; examining dentition could allow a forensic anthropologist to make some solid conclusions as to the race or ethnicity of the body, which could be helpful in identification.
Because bone, unlike other bodily tissues, is not subject to continual reformation, an analysis of the oxygen-18 isotope in the tooth enamel will match that of the area in the world where the person was born. Archaeologists use this technique to study patterns of human and animal migration, and forensic scientists use it to determine if a person was native to the area where the body was found.
The study of human dentition can be helpful only there are recordings concerning a particular dentition. These recordings can be dental X rays or X rays of sinus, or even photos which may reveal some particular aspects concerning the dentition of a person, such as shape or aspect of front teeth.
Based on these recordings, forensic odontology may provide quick and important answers when identification of remains is needed because death does not affect the dentition patterns. Meanwhile, DNA testing is a procedure that could last months and the remains that are severely degraded make this procedure even more difficult as it is.