Cheiloscopy in Identification: Forensic Odontology

and Jasdeep Kaur1


Earth and Life Sciences Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and ILEWG, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Cheiloscopy is a forensic investigation technique that deals with the identification of humans based on lip traces. This chapter will provide various methods of recording and collecting lip prints at the crime scene and emphasizes how to develop latent lip prints in forensic odontology.

9.1 Introduction

Establishing a person’s identity can be a very complicated process. Dental, fingerprint, and DNA comparisons are almost certainly the most common techniques used in this pursuit. However, there are many well-known implanted methods of human identification. One of the most interesting emerging methods of human identification originating from criminal and forensic odontology is human lip recognition. Lip prints are unique and do not change during the life of a person (Tsuchihashi 1974). The external surface of the lip has numerous elevations and depressions that form a characteristic pattern, referred to as lip prints. Lip prints can be obtained at crime scenes from clothing, cups, glasses, cigarettes, windows, and doors (Williams 1991).

9.2 Background

Cheiloscopy (from the Greek words cheilos  =  lips, e skopein; see Molano et al. 2002) is the name given to lip print studies (Perper and Menges 1990). The biological phenomenon of systems of furrows on the red part of human lips was first noted by anthropologists. R. Fischer was the first to describe it in 1902 (Thomas and van Wyk 1988). The use of lip prints in personal identification and criminalization was first recommended in France by Edmond Locard (Thomas and van Wyk 1988). In 1950 Synder was the first person who suggested the idea of using lip prints for identification. He had conducted an investigation of a traffic accident and established that the characteristics of lips formed by lip grooves are as individually distinctive as the ridge characteristics of fingerprints (Snyder 1967). Until 1950, however, anthropology merely mentioned the existence of the furrows without suggesting a practical use for the phenomenon. Since 1950 the Japanese have carried out extensive research in the area. In the period between 1968 and 1971, two Japanese scientists (Suzuki and Tsuchihashi 1970) examined 1,364 persons at the Department of Forensic Odontology at Tokyo University. Based upon that research, it was established that the arrangement of lines on the red part of human lips is individual and unique for each human being. This statement led to the conclusion that it is possible to use the arrangement of furrows (on a trace, in a linear form) on lips for the identification of a person. In further research, the Japanese scientists examined the principles of the heredity of furrows on the red part of lips.
In Poland (Suzuki and Tsuchihashi 1971), the interest in lip prints started in 1966 when a lip print was revealed on window glass at the scene of a burglary. Research was carried out, and its results were comparable to those achieved in Japan and Hungary. The research was only of preliminary nature and did not allow for practical application of results as yet. A project aimed at that objective was launched in 1982, in the Forensic Institute of Warsaw University Criminal Law Department, in cooperation with the former Forensic Institute of Militia in Warsaw. The material for study was collected in the former Military Training Center at Minsk Mazowiecki. Lip prints were collected from 1,500 persons (including 107 women), coming from various locations around the country. The volunteers ranged in age from 5 to 60 years. Altogether more than 7,000 traces of the red part of the lips were examined. As a result of the examination, the individuality of lines in the red part of lips and their unchangeability within the limits practicable for identification were proven. Since 1985 in Poland, the methods of finding and recovering lip traces, recovering comparative material, and the techniques employed to carry out that expertise have been introduced into casework of the Fingerprint Department of the Central Forensic Laboratory of Police in Warsaw. During the years 1985–1997, cheiloscopic techniques were used in 85 cases, including 65 burglary cases, 15 cases of homicide, and 5 cases of assault. In 34 cases the identification was positive, which means that cheiloscopic techniques were equal in value to other types of forensic evidence. It was also included in evidence presented in court.

9.3 Lip Print Classification

Lip prints can classified using any of the following methods:


Martín Santos classification (Santos 1967): This system divides the lip grooves into two groups: (1) simple, when they are formed only by one element; this element can be a straight line (R-1), a curve (C-2), an angular form (A-3), or sinusoidal (S-4); (2) compound, when they are formed by several elements; in this case, they can be bifurcated (B-5), trifurcated (T-6), or anomalous (An-7).

Renaud classification (Renaud 1973): The lips are considered in halves (left and right), and every groove, according to its form, has a number (Table 9.1). According to Renaud’s formula, capital letters are used to describe the upper lip left (L) and right (R) sides, and small letters classify each groove. In the lower lip, it is done the other way around, using capital letters to classify the grooves, and small letters to separate the left from right sides.

Table 9.1

Renaud’s (1973) lip print classification
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Groove type
Complete vertical
Incomplete vertical
Complete bifurcated
Incomplete bifurcated
Compete branched
Incomplete branched
Reticular pattern
Oct 18, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on Cheiloscopy in Identification: Forensic Odontology
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