Tooth as a Source of DNA in Forensic or Investigative Genetics: An Overview


Nandini D. B.
Juniya Grace Joji


Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the genetic code of most organisms including humans. In the last few years, DNA analysis methods are applied to forensic cases for human identification which is termed forensic or investigative genetics. It is often challenging to obtain and interpret DNA from routine samples like blood in severely decomposed or disfigured bodies recovered from incineration, immersion, trauma, mutilation, and decomposition as in incidents of fire, explosion, or murder. The tooth can survive any extreme environment with minimum risk of contamination making it a valuable alternative source of DNA in such cases. Tooth structures like the enamel (amelogenin protein), dentin, cementum, pulp, and adherent tissues like bone and periodontal fibers are sources from which DNA can be obtained. Various methods have been described for DNA extraction. There are numerous applications of DNA analysis like identification of the deceased or missing victim or the unknown culprit from a crime scene, solving paternity issues, determining the occurrence of any genetic disease, and determining the ancestry. This article briefly summarizes an overview of the tooth as a valuable DNA source and various methods and challenges related to DNA analysis.


How to Cite
D. B., N. ., & Joji , J. G. (2022). Tooth as a Source of DNA in Forensic or Investigative Genetics: An Overview. Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences, 12(3), 186–196.


  1. Gaensslen RE, Harris HA, Lee HC. (2007) Introduction to Forensics & Criminalistics; New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
  2. Watson JD, Crick FHC. A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature. 1953;171:737-8. PMid:13054692 DOI:
  3. Mayall SS, Agarwal P, Vashisth P. Dental DNA fingerprinting in identification of human remains. Ann Dent Spec 2013; 1:16-9.
  4. Jeffreys AJ, Wilson V, Thein SL. Hypervariable ‘minisatellite’ regions in human DNA. Nature. 1985; 314:67-73. PMid:3856104 DOI:
  5. Acharya AB. Role of forensic odontology in disaster victim identification in the Indian context. J Dent Specialities 2015; 3:89-91.
  6. ABabu RS, Rose D. Molecular advancements in forensic. odontology. West Indian Med J 2016; 65:369-74. PMid:26645597 DOI:
  7. Sweet D. Forensic dental identification. Forensic Sci Int. 2010; 201:3-4. PMid:20304570 DOI:
  8. Pittayapat P, Jacobs R, De Valck E, Vandermeulen D, Willems G. Forensic odontology in the disaster victim identification process. J Forensic Odontostomatol. 2012; 30:1-12.
  9. Buckleton J, Triggs C, Clayton T. In John Buckleton, Christopher M. Triggs, Simon J. Walsh editors. Disaster victim identification, identification of missing persons, and immigration cases in forensic DNA evidence interpretation. CRC Press Washington, D.C; 2005. p. 4068. DOI:
  10. Higgins D, Austin JJ. Teeth as a source of DNA for forensic identification of human remains: A review. Sci Justice. 2013; 53:433-41. PMid:24188345 DOI:
  11. Higgins D, Kaidonis J, Austin J, Townsend G, James H, Hughes T. Dentine and cementum as sources of nuclear DNA for use in human identification. Aust J Forensic Sci. 2011; 43:287-95. DOI:
  12. Nunn S. Touch DNA collection versus firearm fingerprinting: Comparing evidence production and identification outcomes. J Forensic Sci. 2013; 58:601-8. PMid:23458456 DOI:
  13. Schwartz TR, Schwartz EA, Mieszerski L, McNally L, Kobilinsky L. Characterization of DNA obtained from teeth subjected to various environmental conditions. J Forensic Sci. 1991; 36:979-90. PMid:1680960 DOI:
  14. Butler J M. Forensic DNA Typing: Biology, technology and genetics of STR markers. San Diego: Academic Press; 2005.
  15. Corte-Real A, Anjos MJ, Vieira DN, Gamero JJ. The tooth for molecular analysis and identification: A forensic approach. J Forensic Odontostomatol. 2012; 30:22-8.
  16. Sweet DJ, Sweet CH. DNA analysis of dental pulp to link incinerated remains of homicide victim to crime scene. J Forensic Sci. 1995; 40:310-4. DOI:
  17. Sumalatha S, Padmaja S, Thumati P. Every contact leaves its trace: Insight into recent advances of forensic odontology.J Cancer Treat Res. 2015; 3:1-7. DOI:
  18. Prathab DK. Age estimation in Forensic Odontology. Int J Prosthodont Restor Dent. 2017; 7:21-4.
  19. Sweet D, Lorente M, Valenzuela A, Lorente JA, Alvarez JC. Increasing DNA extraction yield from saliva strains with a modified Chelex method. Forensic Sci Int. 1996; 83:16777. DOI:
  20. Malaver PC, Yunis JJ. Different dental tissues as source of DNA for human identification in forensic cases. Croat Med J. 2003; 44:306-9.
  21. Senn DR, Stimson PG. Forensic Dentistry. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. p. 103-39. DOI:
  22. Gaytmenn R, Sweet D. Quantification of forensic DNA from various regions of human teeth. J Forensic Sci. 2003; 48:622-5. PMid:12762534 DOI:
  23. Chowdhury RM, Singhvi A, Bagul N, Bhatia S, Singh G, Goswami S. Sex determination by amplification of amelogenin gene from dental pulp tissue by polymerase chain reaction. Indian J Dent Res. 2018; 29:470-6. PMid:30127199 DOI:
  24. Kumal S. Tooth pulp: A foundation for DNA Analysis. J Forensic Res. 2012; 3-7 25. Takasaki T, Tsuji A, Ikeda N, Ohishi M. Age estimation in dental pulp DNA based on human telomere shortening. Int J Legal Med. 2003; 117:232-4. PMid:12838429 DOI:
  25. Komuro T, Nakamura M, Tsutsumi H, Mukoyama R. Gender determination from dental pulp by using capillary gel electrophoresis of amelogenin locus. J Forensic Odontostomatol. 1998; 16:23-6.
  26. Pötsch L, Meyer U, Rothschild S, Schneider PM, Rittner C. Application of DNA techniques for identification using human dental pulp as a source of DNA. Int J Legal Med. 1992; 105:139-43. PMid:1419874 DOI:
  27. Yukseloglu EH, Dastan K, Yonar FC, Rayimoglu G, Karatas O, Islek DS et al. The comparison of DNA extraction techniques in human bone and tooth samples exposed to high heat. Med Science. 2019; 8:489-95. DOI:
  28. Remualdo VR. Assessment of three methods of extraction of DNA of teeth of humans subjected to heat (dissertation), São Paul SP: Faculty of Dentistry, University of São Paul. 2004.
  29. Datta P, Sood S, Rastogi P, Bhargava K, Bhargava D, Yadav M. DNA Profiling in Forensic Dentistry. J Indian Acad Forensic Med. 2012; 34:155-8.
  30. Romeika JM, Yan F. Recent Advances in forensic DNA analysis. J Forensic Res. 2013; S12: 001. DOI:
  31. Sweet D, Lorente M, Lorente JA, Valenzuela A, Villanueva E. An improved method to recover saliva from human skin: the double swab technique. J Forensic Sci. 1997; 42:320-2. PMid:9068193 DOI:
  32. Gibbs RA. DNA amplification by the polymerase chain reaction. Anal Chem. 1990; 62:1202–14. PMid:2196835 DOI:
  33. Chaudhary RB, Shylaja MD, Patel A, Patel A. DNA in forensic odontology: New phase in dental analysis. Int J Forensic Odontol. 2020; 5:43-7.
  34. Sankari SL, Jimson S, Masthan K, Jacobina J. Role of DNA profiling in forensic odontology. J Pharm Bioall Sci. 2015; 7:S138-41. PMid:26015692 PMCid:PMC4439652 DOI:
  35. Girish K, Rahman FS, Tippu SR. Dental DNA fingerprinting in identification of human remains. J Forensic Dent Sci. 2010; 2:63-8. PMid:21731342 PMCid:PMC3125955 DOI:
  36. Roewer L. DNA fingerprinting in forensics: past, present, future. Investigative Genetics. 2013; 4:22.
  37. PMid:24245688 PMCid:PMC3831584 DOI:
  38. Weedn WV. DNA Identification, in Forensic Dentistry, edited by Stimson PG and Mertz CA. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1997. p. 37-46.
  39. Comey CT, Koons BW, Presley KW, Smerick JB, Sobieralski CA, Stanley DM, et al. Extraction strategies for amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis. JFSCA. 1994; 39:1254-69. DOI:
  40. Gill P, Fereday L, Morling N. Schneider PM: The evolution of DNA databases- Recommendations for new European STR loci. Forensic Sci Int. 2006; 156:242-4. PMid:16002250 DOI:
  41. Budowle B, Moretti TR, Niezgoda SJ, Brown BL: CODIS and PCR-based short tandem repeat loci: Law enforcement tools. Proceedings of the Second European Symposium on Human Identification. Madison, WI: Promega Corporation; 1998. p. 73-88.
  42. Willuweit S, Roewer L, International Forensic Y Chromosome User Group: Y chromosome haplotype reference database (YHRD): Update. Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2007; 1:83-7. PMid:19083734 DOI:
  43. Gu S, Li S. X-chromosome STRs analysis of Ewenke ethnic population. Forensic Sci Int. 2006; 158:72-5. PMid:16280222 DOI:
  44. Kang L, Li S. X-chromosome STR polymorphism of Luoba ethnic group living in Tibet (SW China). Forensic Sci Int. 2006; 156:88-90. PMid:16309866 DOI:
  45. Parson W, Dür A: EMPOP-A forensic mtDNA database. Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2007; 1:88-92. PMid:19083735 DOI:
  46. SNP Fact Sheet. Human genome project. U.S. Department of Energy genome Program’s biological and environmental research information system (BERIS). Available from:
  47. Dutta P, Bhosale S, Singh R, Gubrellay P, Patil J, Sehdev B, et al. Amelogenin gene the pioneer in gender determination from forensic dental samples. J Clin Diagn Res. 2017; 11:ZC56 9. PMid:28384982 PMCid:PMC5376882 DOI:
  48. Ye L, Le TQ, Zhu L, Butcher K, Schneider RA, Li W, et al. Amelogenins in human developing and mature dental pulp. J Dent Res. 2006; 85:814 8. PMid:16931863 PMCid:PMC2243219 DOI:
  49. Muruganandhan J, Sivakumar G. Practical aspects of DNA based forensic studies in dentistry. J Forensic Dent Sci. 2011; 3:38 45. PMid:22022138 PMCid:PMC3190439 DOI:
  50. Frumkin D, Wasserstrom A, Budowle B, Davidson A. DNA methylation-based forensic tissue identification. Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2011; 5:517-24. PMid:21196138 DOI:
  51. Kashkary L, Kemp C, Shaw KJ, Greenway GM, Haswell SJ. Improved DNA extraction efficiency from low level cell numbers using a silica monolith based micro fluidic device. Anal Chim Acta. 2012; 750:127-31. PMid:23062434 DOI:
  52. Pan D, Mi L, Huang Q, Hu J, Fan C. Genetic analysis with nano PCR. Integr Biol (Camb). 2012; 4:1155-63. PMid:22907590 DOI:
  53. Allen M, Nilsson M, Havsjö M, Edwinsson L, Granemo J, Bjerke M: Haloplex and MiSeq NGS for simultaneous analysis of 10 STRs, 386 SNPs and the complete mtDNAgenome, Presentation at the 25th Congress of the International Society for Forensic Genetics. Melbourne; 2-7 September 2013.
  54. Sweet D, Hildebrand D. Recovery of DNA from human teeth by cryogenic grinding. J Forensic Sci. 1998; 43:1199202. PMid:9846398 DOI:
  55. Nigam P, Grewal P, Singh VP, Prasad K, Tak J, Sinha A. Cryogenic grinding : An insight into the new era. Int J Dent Med Res. 2014; 1:129-31.
  56. Alakoc YD, Aka PS. Orthograde entrance technique to recover DNA from ancient teeth preserving the physical structure. Forensic Sci Int. 2009; 188:96-8. PMid:19398173 DOI:
  57. Balla SB. Forensic Dental Identification: Practice in Indian context compared to Western countries. J Forensic Sci Med. 2016; 2:44-7. DOI:
  58. Gupta R, Gupta S, Gupta M. Journey of DNA Evidence in legal arena: An insight on its legal perspective worldwide and highlight on admissibility in India. J Forensic Sci Med. 2016; 2:102-6. DOI:
  59. Lee SB, Clabaugh KC, Silva B, Odigie KO, Coble MD,Loreille O, et al. Assessing a novel room temperature DNA storage medium for forensic biological samples. Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2012; 6:31-40. PMid:21324769 DOI:
  60. Ansell R. Internal quality control in forensic DNA analysis. Accred Qual Assur. 2013; 18:279-89. DOI:
  61. Rohland N, Hofreiter M. Ancient DNA extraction from bones and teeth. Nat Protoc. 2007; 2: 1756-62. PMid:17641642 DOI:
  62. Rudin N, Inman K. An introduction to forensic DNA analysis. 2nd ed. Washington: CRC Press; 2001 DOI:
  63. Izawa H ,Tsutsumi H, Maruyama S, Komuro T. DNA analysis of root canal-filled teeth. Leg Med. 2017; 27:10-18. PMid:28623801 DOI:
  64. Khare A, Saxena V, Jain M, Tiwari V, Santha B, Sharva V. Dental tissue as an imperative marker for human identification in mass disaster. Int J Forensic Odontol. 2018; 3:26-9. DOI:
  65. Jayalakshmi B, Avinash Tejasvi ML. ABO genotyping from pulp and dentin using DNA - A PCR study. J Forensic Dent Sci. 2020; 12:1-9. DOI:
  66. Pai KR, Bhat SS, Salman A, Hegde S. Blood group determination using DNA extracted from exfoliated
  67. primary teeth at various time durations and temperatures: A PCR study. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2016; 9:308-12. PMid:28127161 PMCid:PMC5233696 DOI:
  68. Beyleveld D. Ethical issues in the forensic applications of DNA analysis. Forensic Sci Int. 1997; 88:3 15. DOI:
  69. Ge J, Yan JW, Budowle B, Chakarborty R, Eisenberg A. Issues on China forensic DNA database. Chin J Forensic Med. 2011; 26:252-5.
  70. Joy S, Bastian TS, Selvamani M, Abraham S. India-National DNA offender database as tool for criminal surveillance: Need for public debate!!! J Med Radiol Pathol Surg. 2018; 5:11-4. DOI:
  71. Kumar S, Verma K.A, Prathibha S, Raghavendra S. Current scenario of forensic DNA databases in or outside India and their relative risk. Egypt J Forensic Sci. 2016; 6:1-5. DOI:
  72. Chhibber M. Govt Crawling on DNA Profiling Bill, CBI urges it to Hurry, Cites China. The Indian Express; 2010. Available from: