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Dental Records, DNA From TeethMay Help Identify Victims From California’s Wildfire

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

S. Gross and E. Weise, November 15, 2018, USA Today

Summarized by: Linda Zheng

The California Wildfire in 2018 was the deadliest wildfire that occurred in the U.S. within the last century. The death toll was high, and many highly-charred bodies were left with little bone or tissue. Biological methods such as DNA fingerprinting was used as a first attempt to identify the victims. If a fingerprint wasn’t viable, victims are identified through dental records. Given restorations and teeth anatomy are highly individualized, an x-ray of the person’s jaw was compared with their past dental records. Back in the morgue, DNA from teeth was used to identify the victim if there was no tissue present. The 99% mineralized enamel cap was able to protect the DNA inside. A team of anthropologists, including dental anthropologists, were crucial in the recovery effort of identifying victims

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