Anthropological Studies

Missing the Missing People. A Need for National Dental Registry (Database) In India

Article Number: FKP840031 Volume 04 | Issue 02 | October - 2021 ISSN: 2581-4966
16th Aug, 2021
10th Sep, 2021
18th Sep, 2021
12th Oct, 2021


Dr. S. Praveen


Missing people phenomena is of prominent treat to the society with health, emotional and financial issues. In this phenomena lies also the recovered unidentified human remains, which should be processed also considering “Forensic Odontology”, a branch of dentistry and forensic sciences, which deals, in the interest of justice, with handling, examination and evaluation of dental evidence and dental findings. Civil, criminal and research are the triad of forensic odontology. Forensic odontology deals also with identification of unknown bodies who are referred as “missing persons and nameless bodies”. The main issue in the identification of human remains and the collection of identifying data is the availability of dental data of the missing persons. Dental data could be collected, interpreted, updated and organized by forensic odontologists, whose role in missing person investigation is neglected in India. This can result in a delay in the dentification process. Also, the authorities in India usually dispose unknown bodies not claimed up to 72 hours: a silent mass disaster. Identification is not only needed for missing person but also required in fire accidents, air crash, natural and man-made disasters. Interpol standing committee also recognizes these issues for legal, cultural and other reasons. Humans have rights not to lose their identity after death and identification of a victim may be of vital importance to police investigation. Interpol states that dental data is a primary identifier, along with fingerprint and DNA analysis. For all these reasons dental records should be collected regularly in dental clinics and the implementation a national dental database could overcome this concern. A National Dental Registry (NDR) should be formed by the Indian government. This paper highlights a protocol for the collection of dental records, structure of Indian Dental Database and proposes a method for identification of unidentified human remains which has many hidden benefits to our society. Keywords: Forensic odontology, missing people, dental record, identification, India


The Federation Dentaire International (FDI) defines “Forensic Odontology” as that branch of dentistry which in the interest of justice, deals with the proper handling and examination of dental evidence and with the proper evaluation and presentation of dental findings in Court. Civil, criminal and research are the triad of forensic odontological activities. Forensic odontology main field of application is related to personal identification, which is also related to missing people. The main concern in missing people is search and collection of dental data. To this regards forensic odontologists play a pivotal role in identification missing and unidentified persons but too often they are neglected. This can result in a delay in identification and human remains are disposed by authorities as unidentified bodies. Hence, a National Dental Database in India would help in the identification of recovered human remains. The implementation of Indian National Dental Database (INDD) would allow a timely identification of unidentified human remains which further have financial and social benefits.

Missing People and India

Individual identification not only needed for missing persons but also required in fire accidents, air crash, natural and man -made disasters. But India is very far from this aspect. In India we often come across news like dead man returns home alive after the family identifying the body. In a case, a person is wrongly identified as Muslim and buried. A google search was made using the key sentence “identification using teeth by Indian police”. The search showed only our former spirited Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was identified by his teeth (that too in a closed population) which was a shocking and unfortunate condition in India. Another bad example is forensic odontologist has hardly been used in 2004 Tsunami with respect to other countries like Malaysia. According to National Crime Records, a recent statistics says 2,22,446 unidentified bodies recorded in India with 102 bodies per day. In Tamil Nadu there are 52,576 unidentified bodies and 15 bodies per day who again become unidentified missing people. In India it is usual to dispose the bodies that are not claimed upto 72 hours and thus it is a silent mass disaster that the government seriously should look into.

Significance of Identification

If the body remains nameless, case remains unsolved and suspect escapes which is illegal. The identification of a person plays a vital role in any criminal investigation. Declaration by surviving individual about his/her dead partner is necessary for remarriage in certain religion. The identification of dead person is necessary for insurance and other financial claims. Identification also needed for their last rights whether to be buried or cremated, particularly in few countries where the identity is to be guaranteed before burial within their boundaries. The identification of persons stretched out for a long time gives lawfulness and restfulness of family members, relatives and friends of the deceased (Pretty and Sweet, 2001). Thus identification of unknown bodies are essential for justice and humanitarian reasons. Interpol standing committee also recognizes that for legal, cultural and other reasons. Humans have rights not to lose their identity after death and that identification of victim may be a vital importance to police investigation. Interpol further says dental records are primary identifiers along with fingerprints and DNA analysis (


“Disaster Victim Identification (DVI).” Interpol, Accessed Date 4th May 2021, Accessed from

Hinchliffe, J. “Forensic Odontology, Part 1. Dental Identification.” British Dental Journal, vol. 210, no. 5, 2011, pp. 219–24. Crossref, doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2011.146.

Nuzzolese E., Presentation at “Crime scene analysis and victim identification forum” on March 2013 at Royal college of Pathologies, London, UK.

Pretty, I., and D. Sweet. “A Look at Forensic Dentistry – Part 1: The Role of Teeth in the Determination of Human Identity.” British Dental Journal, vol. 190, no. 7, 2001, pp. 359–66. Crossref, doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4800972a.

How to cite this article?

APA StylePraveen, D. S. (2021). Missing the Missing People. A Need for National Dental Registry (Database) In India. Academic Journal of Anthropological Studies, 04(02), 01–04. 
Chicago Style
MLA Style

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