A new digital approach for measuring dentin translucency in forensic age estimation

Ashith B Acharya
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 2010, 31 (2): 133-7
Assessment of age from the dentition constitutes an important step in constructing an identity profile of the decedent. Dentinal translucency is one of the morpho-histologic parameters considered best for dental age estimation, not only in terms of accuracy but also simplicity. By convention, translucency has been measured using calipers. Computer-based methods have been proposed for the same, although these required the use of custom-built software programs. The present study describes a method to measure translucency on sectioned teeth using commercially available computer hardware and software. Translucency measurements on 81 tooth sections were obtained using the digital method and compared with those obtained using a caliper. Correlation coefficients of translucency measurements to age were statistically significant for both methods (P < 0.001) and marginally higher for the digital approach (r = 0.49). Application of linear regression equations derived from both methods on an independent sample (n = 15) revealed better ability of the digital method to assess age-60% of age estimates were within +/-5 years of the actual age as against 40% for caliper-based method. The superior results using the digital method are attributed to refined measurements obtained under magnification and the "touch-free" approach of measuring translucency on digital images of thin tooth sections. Moreover, the computer hardware and software used in the present study are ubiquitous and easy to use. Considering these advantages, the report recommends the use of the digital method to assess translucency for age estimation.

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