Dental Jurisprudence and Ethics

and Jasdeep Kaur1


Earth and Life Sciences Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and ILEWG, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Forensic dental practitioners worldwide are part of a profession with very high ethical standards because they need to deal with situations that require behavior and judgment based on ethics, an intrinsic component of forensic dental practice. This chapter focuses on the role of law and ethics in the practice of forensic odontology.

20.1 Introduction

Professionals in law enforcement and medicolegal disciplines should know how, in a layperson’s way, to present their findings regarding forensic odontology. Dental identification has a legal record with little doubt. The forensic odontologist must follow guidelines proposed by ethical committees and law enforcement authorities. This is vital in medicolegal issues both for the acceptance of forensic dental evidence and to protect the dentist against claims of malpractice, manipulation, and other liabilities. The American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) has published manuals to its diplomates detailing the standard guidelines for such procedures (Hampl 2010).

20.2 Presenting Evidence in Court

20.2.1 General Principles of Presenting Evidence in Court

A forensic odontologist must follow these general principles while presenting evidence in court:


Attend court punctually and produce all the documents asked for. Attire should be professional.

Be very familiar with the details of the case, anticipate likely questions, and study the literature.

Never attempt to remember. Speak slowly and clearly, with confidence.

Use simple language (layperson’s language), avoiding superlatives and exaggeration. Do not fumble while reporting on records or literature. Avoid discrepancies between the record and the testimony.

Be pleasant and polite to the counsel or the accused. Do not try to evade a question and do not lose your temper.

Keep an open mind. Be honest, impartial, and truthful.

Avoid long discussions.

Textbooks or respected journals can be offered as evidence. Before answering a question with these materials, read the complete passage aloud, as the lawyer might have read only the statements that favor his or her position.

A dentist does not have the professional privilege to recuse him- or herself from testimony and thus must answer all questions.
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Oct 18, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on Dental Jurisprudence and Ethics
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