It was a devastating experience to watch the massive explosions and destruction, that killed nearly 30 innocent persons at the Karachi airport recently. Atleast six of the victims’ bodies were burnt beyond recognition during the disaster and their families had a hard time identifying the corpses of their loved ones. Many other rapes, murders and brutal cases of beheading are left unsolved, due to lack of evidence against the criminals.
With the rising incidents of terrorism and violent crimes all over Pakistan, the need for qualified forensic dental experts is also becoming increasingly critical in the country. This newly emerging science can help in identifying the charred dead-bodies or beheaded human skulls found on the site of a bomb-blast or any other industrial accident or homicide. Even the bite marks on a rape-victim’s body can lead to the criminal’s arrest, because each human being has a unique teeth-identity, which is almost as distinct as fingerprints. This provides a strong evidence to help in investigations and solving very complex criminal cases.
Millions of dollars have already been invested in Pakistan towards establishing a state-of-the-art Forensic Science Laboratory, now operational in Lahore. However, in other major cities too, we must build similar institutions, preferably enriched with forensic dentistry sections.
Fortunately, a proactive dentists – Dr. Humayoun Temoor was the first one to get a degree in Forensic Odontology from the University of Glamorgan and return to work in Pakistan. Dr. Temoor has been employed by the Health Department of the Punjab Government for developing a curriculum; to teach and train other Dental Surgeons and under-graduate students in Odontology. This exercise will facilitate several dental colleges in launching their own programmes in Forensic dentistry.
As defined by Wikipedia; Forensic Dentistry is the application of dental knowledge to those criminal and civil laws that are enforced by police agencies in a criminal justice system. Forensic dentists are involved in assisting investigative agencies to identify recovered human remains in addition to the identification of whole or fragmented bodies; forensic dentists may also be asked to assist in determining age, race, occupation, previous dental history and socioeconomic status of unidentified human beings.
In order to meet the country’s needs in the near future, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) needs to plan and launch comprehensive courses in forensic dentistry, including; Face Mapping, Disaster management and Disaster Victim Identification. However, before beginning such a programme, the country will need numerous formally qualified faculty members to teach these rapidly evolving subjects at the local institutions.
For this purpose, our qualified and experienced dental practitioners must be encouraged, through special incentives, to seek degrees in forensic dentistry from foreign universities. It might take a several years before a qualified faculty is ready and available in the country. Thus, the PMDC needs to act fast.