Forensic odontology is a specialization within the field of dentistry. Forensic odontologists identify human corpses through their teeth or dental records if there is no other available method for identifying the body. Forensic odontologists also use teethmarks to identify assailants in court cases or to estimate the age of a deceased party through examining their teeth, and they are usually required to testify in open court about their discoveries. A career in forensic odontology requires a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Science) degree, specified experience requirements and board certification. Depending on education and years of experience, a forensic odontologies can earn between $150,000 and $185,000.
The first step in the road to forensic odontology is obtaining a bachelor's degree. The profession requires a strong science background, so it would be helpful to choose biology or chemistry as your major. Maintain a high GPA because dental schools use an applicant's grade point average as one of the factors to decide admission.
Dental Admissions Test
Before entering dental school, candidates are required to pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), which measures an applicant's ability to comprehend scientific information, perceptual ability and academic ability.
Before becoming a forensic odontologist, candidates must successfully complete a dental program accredited by the American Dental Association. Admission to dental school is highly competitive; applicants must submit proof of college GPA, DAT scores, recommendations and interviews before being accepted. Dental school programs typically take 4 years to complete during which time students will learn biochemistry, physiology, anatomy and microbiology. Before graduation, students will also practice the craft of dentistry under the supervision of a licensed dentist. At the close of the program, students will receive their D.D.S. degree or the D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree.
Forensic odontologists must become board certified before practicing forensic odontology. The board certification requirements determined by the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) are as follows: applicants must attend four yearly meetings of a nationally recognized forensic organization and play a role in two yearly programs of a nationally recognized ABFO-approved forensic dental organization. Certification applicants also have to maintain affiliation with a federal dental service, coroner's office, insurance agency or law enforcement agency for a period of 2 years.
ABFO Experience Requirement
The ABFO requires that hopeful forensic odontologists observe at least five autopsies and perform no less than 25 forensic dental cases. Applicants must also prove they have completed additional forensic dental work in order to earn points. At least 350 points are needed to become board certified. Contact the ABFO for activity requirements an a breakdown of point distribution.
ABFO Board Certification
Before becoming a forensic odontologist, applicants must become board certified by passing several oral and written exams. Applicants have 2 years to complete their exams after which they will be given the title of Diplomate. Forensic Odontologists must pay a yearly fee to the ABFO.
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