History of Forensic and Legal Dentistry

Klaus Rötzscher (ed.)Forensic and Legal Dentistry201410.1007/978-3-319-01330-5_1

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

1. History of Forensic and Legal Dentistry

Klaus Rötzscher 
(1)

German Academy of Forensic Odontostomatology (AKFOS), Wimphelingstraße 7, 67346 Speyer, Germany
 
 
Klaus RötzscherDr. med. Dr. med. dent.
Abstract
The different terms of dentistry, dental medicine, odontology, and stomatology, imply different practical and scientific–theoretic functions. According to our requirements, modern dentistry stands for the normal development, conservation, or rehabilitation of the orofacial system. The orofacial system includes the functional system of teeth, masticatory apparatus, jaws and temporomandibular joints, masseter and facial muscles, glands, soft tissues, membranes, and their support by blood, lymph, and nerves.

1.1 Introduction

The different terms of dentistry, dental medicine, odontology, and stomatology, imply different practical and scientific–theoretic functions. According to our requirements, modern dentistry stands for the normal development, conservation, or rehabilitation of the orofacial system. The orofacial system includes the functional system of teeth, masticatory apparatus, jaws and temporomandibular joints, masseter and facial muscles, glands, soft tissues, membranes, and their support by blood, lymph, and nerves.
A dentist is therefore not just an odontologist, but has to think and treat in terms of odontology and orthodontics. Forensic odontostomatology as a special modification of dentistry is an independent scientific branch within the forensic sciences that deliberately puts its research and methods into the service of the administration of justice (Rötzscher 1991/1).
Forensic odontostomatology is supposed to collect all of the results of odontological research to serve criminal prosecution and legal procedure. It is therefore regarded as an independent branch of science, originating from the requirements of a civilized nation’s system of law and administration of justice.
Some aspects of forensic odontostomatology are (Keiser-Nielsen 1968):

1.

Forensically assessing scientific disputes
 
2.

Establishing certain principles that, being generally approved as correct, are supposed to serve as a standard for correct odontological practice
 
3.

Identification of unknown bodies (dead or alive) in certain cases
 
4.

Supporting the investigation and prosecution of crimes
 
5.

Imparting certain juridical knowledge solely leading to an effective cooperation between dentists and the administration of justice
 
It is often believed that only those few odontostomatologists who serve as expert witnesses need to have some knowledge in this field. However, one must not forget that every dentist is obliged by the code of criminal procedure to be an expert witness should the situation arise. In addition, knowledge of forensic odontostomatology is advisable to avoid possible compensation claims.

1.2 Early History, Part 1

Forensic odontostomatology still lacks a systematics in teaching as well as in research and even in its practical performance. As also seen through a historical survey presented in this chapter, it seems necessary to build up forensic odontostomatology all over the world. At the same time, the forensic odontostomatologist, the forensic pathologist, the police, and the public prosecutor should be given an understanding of this scientific branch. The evolution of forensic odontostomatology undisputedly depends on the development of medicine, odontology, and jurisprudence. It is a part of human cultural history. In the primitive societies of prehistoric times, affliction, the urge to help, and the community feeling of kinship marked the beginning of the art of healing. Despite their artistic work in Western Europe >20,000 years ago, cavemen and bone engravers did not record anything relating to odontology (Rötzscher 1991/2).
The hieroglyphs and pictographs of the smaller or larger slave-holding states of the Old Orient (Middle East) show, through the use of the mouth and teeth in their writing system, how much importance was given to these. The most important evidence from Old Egypt is the EDWIN-SMITH-PAPYRUS from the seventeenth century bc. In this document a dislocation of the jaw and its correct reposition are depicted. Findings of dental prostheses and tooth support are attributed to the marvels of antique metal technology and not to human medicine. There was no knowledge about forensic medicine (Breasted 1922).
Little is known about oral hygiene in Mesopotamia. There is more information on the importance of good teeth in the CODEX HAMMURABI, which was written shortly after 2000 bc for Babylonia and Assyria:

  • § 200: If anyone knocks out anyones teeth, then his teeth shall be knocked out likewise.
  • § 201: If he has knocked out the teeth of a freed man, then he shall pay 1/2 mine of silver.
At least after the publication of the CODEX HAMMURABI, no surgery could be performed in Mesopotamia (Mishulin 1948).

1.2.1 Early History, Part 2

China had a culture as noteworthy as Egypt’s or Mesopotamia’s, which, in its turn, influenced India and Arabia. It is true that there have been books on odontology, but they have not been published (Mildner 1964). From the books on history, law, religious cults, and devotional writing in ancient Israel, one cannot expect anything serious concerning medicine or odontology in particular. And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish, he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake (Mironow 1961) (Exodus 21, 24).
And if he smite out his manservants tooth or his maidservants tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth sake (Exodus 21: 26–27). Jewish law, as well as Babylonian law, ranked the value of the tooth straight after the eye (Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Exodus 21, 24 and Talmud fifth century ad)). The replaced tooth in the Talmud is treated as a cosmetic intervention under “female ornaments.” The artificial tooth was made by a craftsman and had therefore nothing to do with medicine (Nobel 1909). The first denture was found in a tomb near Saida in Phoenicia, two right incisors tied together with a gold thread and fixed to the dental neck of the neighboring teeth by means of a loop of gold wire (Renan 1864). Even for ancient Greece, where there was no subdivision into different branches of medicine, it can be proven that there were no medics specializing in odontology.
The therapies of Hippocrates, Archigenes, Celsus, and Galenus were most remarkable. The first Roman laws, written down ca 450 bc, mention gold threads to tie teeth together. The law of the Twelve Slabs (302 ab urbe condita) stated: Do not throw any gold onto the stakes where dead bodies are burnt, but you may burn the deceased with the gold that keeps his teeth together without violating the law.
Ancient Roman medicine was part of religion and magic. The first medics were slaves, people set free, or adventurers. Aeneas had soldiers and officers skilled in the art of healing, which they performed only occasionally, because they were mainly trained to fight. Roman law subsumed injuries of the teeth to injuries in general. In ancient Greece and Rome, there are no traces of expert witnesses, although in both societies the law developed in a rather complicated way and both societies had a high standard of medical knowledge. The fall of the Greek and Roman empires led to a decline in culture and affected a step backward in medicine and at the same time in odontology (Geist-Jacobi 1905).
Until the beginning of the Christian calendar, there had been no odontology on its own. In theory and practice, it had always been part of general medicine, which was preferably performed by priests or medical men who had come from the priest’s caste.
The Teutonic tribes of the Franks, Alemanns, Goths, Vandals, etc., who were looked down upon as barbarians, were the first to legally introduce medical experts. This was done to stop the custom of blood feuds, and thus they assigned a certain responsibility to the community. However, in medicine they did not yet have the necessary qualifications to meet the expectations. We do not know anything of dental treatment in Celto-Germanic history (Rötzscher 1991/3).
The laws of the Teutonic tribes were codified at the same time when these tribes entered Roman territory: first the Visigoths under Eurich (466–456) and then the BurgLindians under Gundobad (474–516), who was the most important legal expert among the Germanic princes. In the sixth century, these tribes were followed by the different tribes of the Franks (Schmidt 1953).
In the first half of the seventh century, a «law» of the Langobards and the Alemanns, the so-called Pactus Alamannorum, came into existence, which was, 100 years later, rewritten as the Lex Alamannorum. Both allow insight into how medical expertise was treated at those times. In the eighth century, the Langobards and the Franks rewrote some laws. At the same time, the Bavarians, the Saxons, Thuringians, and Frisians recorded their own laws. Whereas the legal recordings were basically completed in the eighth century, the Anglo-Saxons did not finish recording laws until the eleventh century, only succeeded by the Northern Germanic tribes (eleventh to thirteenth centuries) (Brittain 1966).
The Nordic laws of the Icelandic and Scandinavian peoples, although latest to be recorded, have retained a certain naturalness. The recordings of the Germanic tribes fell into oblivion; they were hardly known on the continent in the tenth century. New recordings of laws were very rare.

1.3 Middle Age

From the eleventh century, the towns gained their own jurisdiction, and Germanic law was codified again. The presentation of evidence was being improved; sworn surgeons now became forensic doctors. The range of laws extended from facial injuries and bone injuries to castration, paralyses, and chest injuries. The doctor and medical expert remained outside the court. At the beginning, the proof of the truth did not trust medical testimony very much. This medical testimony was mentioned for the first time at the end of the sixth century. The surgeon had to swear – in ferramenta – on his surgical instruments. The beginnings of a systematic forensic medicine can be found in the big trade centers of Northern Italy (Rötzscher 1991/4).
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Nov 26, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on History of Forensic and Legal Dentistry
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