The importance of forensic age estimation in living subjects has grown over the last few years. In dental age estimation, tooth eruption is a parameter of developmental morphology that can be analyzed by either clinical examination or by evaluation of dental X-rays. In the present study, we determined the stage of wisdom tooth eruption in 410 male and 106 female black South African subjects of known age (12–26 years) based on radiological evidence from 516 conventional orthopantomograms. Four eruption stages were determined (no emergence, alveolar emergence, gingival emergence, complete emergence). Statistical scores were determined for the individual stages separately for both sexes. The data presented here can be utilized for forensic estimation of the minimum and most probable ages of investigated persons.
The international and interdisciplinary Study Group on Forensic Age Diagnostics (http://rechtsmedizin.klinikum.uni-muenster.de/agfad/index.htm) published recommendations for forensic age assessment in living subjects undergoing criminal investigation. The reason for the increasing importance of age assessment in living subjects is the growing number of foreign nationals without valid identification papers and, consequently, the growing number of subjects of unconfirmed age whose chronological age is relevant in legal proceedings. In Germany, the ages of 14, 16, 18, and 21 are of legal relevance (1). In many other European countries, the age of legal majority also ranges from 14 to 18 (2).
Tooth eruption is a parameter of developmental morphology which, unlike tooth mineralization, can be determined in two ways: by clinical examination and/or by evaluation of dental X-rays. In the cases of teeth 1 to 7, there is sufficient data on the emergence sequences of the permanent dentition to obtain reliable forensic age estimations in children and early adolescents (3).
In the present study, the chronological course of third molar eruption will be analyzed based on evidence from conventional orthopantomograms obtained in a black South African population. Based on these findings, the suitability of the age of third molar eruption as a parameter for forensic age assessment in living subjects will be assessed.