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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3-4

Education, training, and practice of forensic odontology: An Indian perspective

Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Dr. D. Y. Patil Dental College and Hospital, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission13-Sep-2019
Date of Decision31-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance10-Feb-2020
Date of Web Publication28-Mar-2020

Correspondence Address:
Rohan Ashok Gawali
Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Dr. D. Y. Patil Dental College and Hospital, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdrr.jdrr_13_20

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How to cite this article:
Gawali RA. Education, training, and practice of forensic odontology: An Indian perspective. J Dent Res Rev 2020;7:3-4

How to cite this URL:
Gawali RA. Education, training, and practice of forensic odontology: An Indian perspective. J Dent Res Rev [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 3];7:3-4. Available from: https://www.jdrr.org/text.asp?2020/7/1/3/281503

In the previous article, we looked at the major applications and scope of forensic odontology (FO) across various civil and criminal cases, ranging from testifying as an expert witness in a rape case to deposing for a fellow dentist in a case of litigation.[1]

Normally, when a person is asked to testify as a witness, he/she is expected to speak the truth and facts related to the case. He/she is not permitted to opine beyond the facts, express his/her beliefs and ideas, or draw inferential conclusions based on facts, as it is the responsibility of the Hon. court.

However, there are cases wherein the court cannot arrive at correct conclusion without the help or “expertise” of persons with special skills in a particular subject. In such cases, this person has the privilege to give opinion by virtue of his/her special skills. Moreover, such persons are called “experts.” The Indian Evidence Act section 45,[2] which is about opinion of experts, states that, when the court has to form an opinion upon a point or matter related to foreign law, science, or art, the opinions upon that point by persons who are especially skilled in such foreign law, science, or art are taken as relevant facts to the case.

Whenever any evidence pertaining to a case is collected whose factual interpretation is beyond the knowledge and understanding of a layperson, expert witness opinion is sought. However, in order to testify in a court as an expert witness, certain requirements with respect to qualification (knowledge) and experience have to be met.

In a case involving dental evidence, the minimum qualification to testify as an expert witness in the court is a graduate degree in dental surgery/dental sciences.

The Dental Council of India (DCI) in its BDS course regulations 2007[3] included FO in the undergraduate curriculum for the first time. FO is taught to 3rd-year BDS and final-year BDS students as part of the subjects oral pathology and oral microbiology and oral medicine and radiology, respectively, with collective teaching/instructions of 30 h. The purpose is not to create professionals competent in FO but to introduce the students to the basic aspects of FO.

Forensic report is a very sensitive document. As forensic report made by the expert witness is decisive about the fate of the accused, the report should be technically sound, accurate, and unbiased so that the facts along with their inferences are proved beyond reasonable doubt, the standard necessary for conviction. Thus, advance training in FO is recommended for handling complex forensic cases of bite mark, human identification, etc.

DCI in its MDS course regulations 2017[4] has included teaching of FO pertaining to the concerned specialty to a variable extent in the specialties of:

  1. Oral and maxillofacial pathology and oral microbiology
  2. Prosthodontics and crown and bridge
  3. Oral medicine and radiology.

Dental graduates having serious interest in the field can opt among various certificate, fellowship, and master courses in India as well as abroad. The certificate and fellowship courses are mostly part-time and distance learning with variable exposure to different governmental bodies related to law enforcement and justice. Master degree courses are full time and awarded by universities. They are structured in nature and offer in-depth exposure to the various hands-on aspects of forensics.

In India, certificate courses offered include a modular course by D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, and some other private entities. The Indian Dental Association offers a fellowship program in FO which can be either classroom program or online program. Master degree programs in different forensic disciplines along with M. Sc. FO are offered by Gujarat Forensic Sciences University which is the world's only university dedicated to forensic sciences. It is a 2-year full-time course offered at the university's campus at Gandhinagar.

Outside India, a graduate diploma in FO is offered by The University of Adelaide. Two European Universities, University of Dundee, Scotland, and KU Leuven, Belgium, offer master-level courses in FO to international students for which Indian dental graduate degree (BDS) holders are eligible. The MFOdont offered by the University of Dundee is a 2-year full-time course taught in English at their campus in Dundee, Scotland. The M. Sc. FO offered by KU Leuven Faculty of Medicine is a 1-year full-time course taught in English at their campus in Leuven, Belgium.

Globally, organizations such as American Board of Forensic Odontology, British Association for Forensic Odontology, and Australian Society of Forensic Odontology are controlling and regulating the practice of FO in their respective nations. These organizations are responsible for formulating standard operating procedures, assuring quality at different steps in evidence handling, standardizing formats for reporting of dental evidence, and maintaining a list of qualified forensic odontologists to name a few.

On the other hand, India as of yet does not have any organization for accreditation or credentialing body for forensic odontologists (So, the field is currently not organized!). Forensic odontologists are not a part of regular forensic team. Services of forensic odontologists are availed on case to case basis as per the discretion and decision of forensic medicine experts, investigating police officers or the judiciary. Law enforcement agencies being government entities seek the expert opinion about dental evidence from dentists in the government setup, who may not necessarily be trained in forensic aspects.

The final article of this series will discuss the hurdles in the practice and future of FO in India.

  References Top

Gawali RA. A new kid on the block: Forensic odontology. J Dent Res Rev 2019;6:63-42.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Jaibhave JD. Evidence Act. Approach to Civil Trial. Nashik: Suvichar Publication; 2016. p. 338-40.  Back to cited text no. 2
Dental Council of India Revised BDS Course Regulations; 2007. Available from: http://www.dciindia.gov.in/Rule_Regulation/Revised_BDS_Course_Regulation_2007.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 Feb 11].  Back to cited text no. 3
Dental Council of India, Master of Dental Surgery Course Regulations; 2017. Available from: http://www.dciindia.gov.in/Rule_Regulation/MDS_Course_Regulations_2017.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 Feb 11].  Back to cited text no. 4


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