Getting a Grip on Bite Marks

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

by Stephen Drew, Improbable Research staff

The Cops: Cheese It! (The Case of the Cheesy Toothmark)
“Comparison Microscope Identification of a Cheese Bitemark: A Case Report,” H. Bernitz and B.A. Kloppers, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, vol. 20, no. 1, June 2002, pp.13–6. The authors, from University of Pretoria, South Africa, report:

Police investigating the murder of a farmer recovered a piece of cheese containing bitemarks. The local dental practitioner used white plaster to make casts of the bitemarks in the cheese and also of the teeth of three suspects. The cheese specimen was retained by the police and seven months later the case was referred to the Forensic Odontology Unit at the University of Pretoria where a silicone rubber cast of the bitemarks in the cheese was made. A lack of concordant features present in a conventional pattern-associated comparison was overcome with the aid of a Leica DMC comparison microscope. Individual features observed under 6.3x magnification aided in the positive identification of the suspect, who when confronte with the evidence, admitted guilt at his first court appearance.

Experimental Cheesy Toothmarks
“Application of Incise Dental Scanner to Compare Bite Marks in Cheese with Models of the Suspects’ Dentitions,” A. Al-Ali, F. Wong, and M. Hector, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, vol. 31, 2013, p. 130.

A sample of 6 dental study models and their corresponding bite marks, made by the same participants into cheese blocks (20×40×20 mm) with their 6 upper anterior teeth, were digitized.... The descriptive statistical differences between the two corresponding images revealed a high degree of fit.

An Earlier Case of a Cheesy Toothmark
“Saliva from Cheese Bite Yields DNA Profile of Burglar: A Case Report,” D. Sweet and D. Hildebrand, International Journal of Legal Medicine, vol. 112, no. 3, 1999, pp. 201–3. The authors, at the Bureau of Legal Dentistry, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, report:

Physical evidence in the form of a high quality bite mark was discovered on a piece of yellow cheese found at the scene of a crime. The cheese had been frozen by police for 10 days after recovery and before submission to the laboratory for testing.... A sample of the suspect’s blood was obtained. Using PCR-based DNA typing... it was determined that the DNA from the cheese originated from the suspect....

It was concluded from the pattern of the teeth marks visible in the cheese that the biter exhibited a specific malocclusion (Class II, Division 2) with severely rotated and crowded upper lateral incisors.... A warrant to seize dental impressions from the suspect which exhibited a dental malocclusion and crowding of the upper teeth consistent with that in the cheese was obtained.

Chomping and the Chocolate Factory
“Bitemarks in Chocolate: A Case Report,” Catherine Josephine McKenna, M.I. Haron, Kenneth Aylesbury Brown, and A.J. Jones, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, vol. 18, no. 1, 2000, p. 10.

Police investigating a theft from a chocolate factory recovered three pieces of chocolate with irregular fractured surfaces displaying a pattern of marks made by human teeth. A highly accuracy dental impression material was used to prepare casts of these marks which were examined and photomicrographed, confirming that they had in fact been produced by human teeth. Casts and photomicrographs of the suspect’s teeth were made in order to record the fine details of the casts of the dentition.... Both direct and photomicrographic comparisons between the casts of the chocolates and of the suspect’s dentition revealed correspondence between their unique characteristics.

(Image credit: Flickr user marie b.)

Cake-Chomping in the Snack Bar
“Comparison of Bitemarks in Foodstuffs by Computer Imaging: A Case Report,” H. Aboshi, J. A. Taylor, T. Takei, and K. A. Brown, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology,  vol. 12, no. 2, 1994, pp. 41–4.

Police called to investigate a fire in a snackbar in Mount Gambier, South Australia, discovered four cakes with characteristic marks apparently produced by human teeth. These marks were examined and compared with the teeth of a suspect arsonist. The comparison was made by computer imaging analysis and a remarkable similarity in arch shape was observed.

What the Dentures Did to the Food
“Avaliação de Marcas de Mordidas em Alimentos Produzidas por Próteses Dentárias” [Evaluation of Bite Marks Made by Dental Prostheses in Foods], Dessana Carla A. de Oliveira, Pollyanna Sousa Simões, Jeidson Antônio Morais Marques, Luís Carlos Cavalcante Galvão, Rogério Nogueira de Oliveira, and Jamilly de Oliveira Musse, Arquivos em Odontologia, vol. 46, no.1, January–March 2010. The authors are at Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana and Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil.

Who Bit the Sandwich
“Successful Identification of a Bite Mark in a Sandwich,” A. Simon, H. Jordan, and K. Pforte, International Journal of Forensic Dentistry, vol. 2, no. 3, 1974, p. 17.

(Image credit: Flickr user nshepard)

For Clean Bites
“A Forensic Investigation of Teeth Marks in Soap,” M.E. Corbett and D. Spence, British Dental Journal, 157, no. 8, 1984, pp. 270–1.

Bitten, but Not by the Murderer
“A Bitemark Case with a Twist,” I.O. Thompson and V.M. Phillips, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, vol. 12, no. 2, December 1994, pp. 37–40. The authors, at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, report:

This is a case report in which the bite patterns of two suspects were compared to a bitemark on the breast of a murder victim. Each suspect had sufficient concordant features to have been found guilty of producing the bitemark. The irony in this case is that the bitemark was not inflicted by the murderer.


The article above is from the January-February 2015 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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