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Forensic Odontology

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Skull used for Forensic Study

Description, Scope, & Purpose

 The Forensic Odontology MS degree concentration in Comparative and Experimental Medicine is the first master’s degree of its kind in the United States. The course of study is founded on the standards and guidelines established by the American Board of Forensic Odontology in the endeavors of human identification, distinguishing bite marks from humans and animals, dental age estimation, missing and unidentified persons, and mass fatality incident dental identification team development.

Curriculum Overview

Training for this intensive 3-semester, 33-credit-hour concentration involves search, recovery, identification, and processing of fresh, mutilated, and decomposing and skeletal remains as evidence that has been exposed to many post-mortem environments from scattered and clandestine burials to aquatic and thermal contexts at an outdoor decomposition facility (“Body Farm“). 

Training will include examination of remains in the autopsy setting. Twice-monthly applied laboratory sessions at the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office–East Tennessee Regional Forensic Center will provide casework exposure.  Students will have the opportunity for hands-on investigation experiences as they arise. Training also involves report writing for submission as a defendable court document.

Students must complete CEM general education* and forensic odontology core† courses, following these general guidelines: 

SemesterCourse InformationCredit Hours
FallCEM 550: Introduction to Forensic Odontology†
(See below for textbook information)
CEM 541: Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease*3
Journal club*1
CEM 554: Dental and Maxillofacial Anatomy/Histology†
(See below for textbook information)
4 (3 lecture, 1 lab)
CEM 504: Descriptive and Applied Epidemiology (optional)*3
SpringCEM 552: Head and Neck Anatomy†4 (1 lecture, 3 lab)
Statistics (500- or 600-level)*3
Journal club*1
Journal club*1
SummerCEM 558: Laboratory Methods in Forensic Odontology†4 (1 lecture, 3 lab)
CEM 556: Head and Neck Osteology and Trauma†4 (2 lecture, 2 lab)
Journal club*1
CEM 535 Capstone Experience‡1

†Forensic odontology core course.
*General education core course.

‡In lieu of a thesis, a capstone experience is required in which the student prepares an analytic research paper that thoroughly identifies and explores a scientific, technical, or social science issue associated with the field.  This paper will be presented as a seminar, which is followed by an oral comprehensive exam by the student’s graduate committee.

CEM 550: (1) Senn DR, Stimson GP. Forensic Dentistry (2010) 2nd ed. CRC Press; ISBN: 978-1-4200-7836-7 (hardback). (2) Senn DR, Weems RA. Manual of Forensic Odontology (2013) 5th ed. CRC Press; ISBN: 978-1-4398-5133-3 (hardback).

CEM 554: (1) Brand RW, Isselhard DR. Anatomy of Orofacial Structures, a Comprehensive Approach (2014) Enhanced 7th ed. Elsevier; ISBN: 978-0-323-22784-1. (2) Chiego DJ, Jr. Essentials of Oral Histology and Embryology, a Clinical Approach (2014) 4th ed. Elsevier; ISBN: 978-0-323-08256-3.

Who Should Apply? 

Medico-legal death investigators, crime scene specialists, dentists, anthropologists, nurses, biologists, detectives, registered dental hygienists, district attorneys, students in criminal justice and related fields, and others wishing introduction and formalization of skills in the search, recovery, and collaborative identification of compromised human head and neck remains, and recognition of human and non-human bite marks at autopsy.

Admission Requirements

Deadline to apply for Fall 2022 entry:
Domestic Students: August 1, 2022
International Students: February 1, 2022

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