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Army to create dental database of its personnel

INS Sindhurakshak, a submarine caught fire and sank on August 14, 2013, and the bodies of 18 crewmen were charred beyond recognition

mumbai Updated: Jun 23, 2018 13:18 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Indian Army,INS Sindhurakshak,Mumbai
Dr Ashok Dhobale, president, IDA, said that over 600 forensic odontologists will be posted at as many army posts across the country to create a complete database of all personnel.(REPRESENTATIONAL PICTURE)

Learning from INS Sidhurakshak’s fire incident in August 2013 , the Indian Army is soon to start a first-of-its-kind project with Indian Dental Association (IDA) to create a database of dental records of army personnel.

Noted cases
  • The first recorded medico-legal identification of a body using dental means was that of Dr. Joseph Warren, who was killed at the Battle of Bread Hill, in New England in 1775.
  • Mass forensic identification by dentition was first done in Paris, in the aftermath of the fire at the Bazar de la Charité in 1897.
  • The discovery of badly burned bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun by Russian troops on May 1, 1945, and subsequent identification of their remains were done solely based on dental evidence that was identified by Dr Hugo Johannes Blaschke, Hitler’s dentist. From his records, it was found that the X-rays of the frontal sinus can be as unique as fingerprints.

INS Sindhurakshak, a submarine caught fire and sank on August 14, 2013, and the bodies of 18 crewmen were charred beyond recognition. The bodies of the personnel were identified by checking their dental records.

Dr Ashok Dhobale, president, IDA, said that over 600 forensic odontologists will be posted at as many army posts across the country to create a complete database of all the personnel. The records will either be collected during the induction medical examination or routine medical examination of army men.

The database will be stored in the form of dental notes, dental charts, radiographs, photographs, and models.

“Teeth, unlike other body parts, don’t decompose and like fingerprints, have a unique structure, which is different for every person. Many a times, during tragedies such as, anti-terrorist operations, natural calamities or accidents, identification becomes a challenge if the bodies are decomposed or severely injured,” said Dr Hemalata Pandey, a forensic odontologist from King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, who is also a part of the project. She added that DNA sampling or dental profiling are the only two options in such situations to identify the bodies. Experts added that while DNA profiling costs about ₹10,000 per sample, DNA profiling is done at a tenth of the cost.

“We first pitched the project to the health ministry and then to ministry of defence, and the project was later approved. Meanwhile, we are also training dentists in forensic odontology and the first batch of over 20 dentists recently graduated. The course is the only one in Maharashtra which is affiliated to Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, Nashik,” said Dhobale.

Forensic odontology has been incorporated in the armed forces of many developed nation including the US, Canada, Russia, among others.

First Published: Jun 23, 2018 13:17 IST