Lessons learned from large-scale comparative dental analysis following the South Asian tsunami of 2004

J Forensic Sci. 2006 Jan;51(1):109-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2005.00012.x.


The aim of this study was to examine the quality of the ante-(AM) and postmortem (PM) dental data that were submitted for entry into the PLASS data system in Phuket, Thailand, following the Boxing Day (December 26) Tsunami, 2004. The investigators were two forensic odontologists who were part of the New Zealand Disaster Victim Identification team that worked at Wat Yang Yao morgue and at the Information Management Center in Phuket. Our findings underline the usefulness of dental data in human identification, but point to a number of significant sources of error. Of the 78 PM records received, only 68% of radiographs and 49% of photos confirmed the accompanying dental charting. This underlines the value, particularly of photographs of the dental arches, in quality control. It also points to a large error component, which may have been due to inexperience of the operators, fatigue, poor conditions in the temporary morgue, or the problem of tooth-colored fillings. Of the 106 AM records received, 62% were of unacceptable quality and 64% were either not accompanied by radiographs or had poor quality radiographs. These results indicate that AM data collection ideally needs to be collated and checked by a forensically trained dentist(s) in the country of origin.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Records
  • Disasters*
  • Forensic Dentistry / standards*
  • Humans
  • Photography, Dental
  • Quality Control
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiography, Dental / standards*
  • Thailand