Best Colleges For Forensic Odontology

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Team College Learners

The most common pathway for someone looking to start a career in Forensic Odontology is to get a degree from a Small Liberal Arts College. But that isn’t the only place to get a degree from. We have compiled a list of the best colleges and universities to obtain your degree in this specialty.

This article is a list of the educational institutions offering the best college forensic odontology programs. So you can pick and choose which school is right for you. A forensic odonatologist has specialized training and education to help him identify and analyze bite marks and dental impressions at crime scenes or use them to testify in court. Are you looking for information regarding how to become a forensic dentist, best forensic science colleges in California & forensic odontology programs.

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Forensic Odontology Programs

What is a Forensic Odontology?

What exactly is forensic dentistry?
In order to address medico-legal inquiries concerning the dentition and maxillofacial structures, forensic dentistry is a crucial component of forensic science. The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville, Tennessee, offers a Masters in Forensic Dentistry program that lasts at least 24 months. According to the criteria and recommendations of the American Board of Forensic Odontology, the curriculum is in step with the developing body of knowledge in forensic dentistry.

It has been designed to provide didactic education, hands-on training, practical experience, and report writing skills in all disciplines within the field required to pursue forensic dental careers nationally as well as internationally. A Master of Dental Science degree is awarded by the College of Graduate Health Sciences upon fulfillment of all program requirements, completion of research, production and acceptance of a thesis, and successful public defense of the independent research effort.

A forensic dentist is an informal title for a forensic odontologist, a medical professional who is trained in odontology, a branch of forensic science that deals with the application of dental science in the identification of unknown human remains and bite marks.  Forensic dentists use both physical and biological dental evidence to solve a number of medicolegal problems, including identifying human remains that result from crimes, terroristic activities, and natural disasters.

Forensic dentists are typically employed by the coroner or medical examiner at the local or state level. Their work often involves a number of postmortem dental examinations, including charting dental and cranial features, employing digital imaging methods, and x-ray documentation. These forensic professionals then record their findings through detailed reports.

Forensic dentists have played very important roles identifying victims of major catastrophes, such as natural disasters, airplane crashes, and terrorist activities. These professionals were integral in identifying victims of such tragedies as the Oklahoma City Federal Building and the World Trade Center attacks and the crashes of Pan Am Flight 103 and American Airlines Flight 587.

Another vital area of forensic dentistry is bite mark analysis, which is often used in violent crimes, such as assault, rape and homicide. Forensic dentists, in addition to studying bite marks, may also collect trace salivary evidence that is used for DNA profiling and matching. Forensic dentists may also conduct injury analysis on dental injuries as a result of physical neglect in children, adults, and the elderly.

Outside of the autopsy room of the medical examiner or coroner’s office, forensic dentists may be asked to provide expert testimony in criminal hearings.

Significance of Odontology in Forensic Science

Forensic odontology jobs involve the identification of deceased individuals based upon the unique features of their dental structure. Forensic odontology is often used when identification through other means, such as fingerprints, is not available due to the decomposition or breakdown of the deceased.

Forensic odontology relies on scientific methods as they relate to the teeth and jaw. This may include the study of dental anatomy and the interpretation of radiographs, pathology, dental materials, and developmental abnormalities. Because the teeth are some of the strongest elements of the human body, odontology may be performed even when the body has been destroyed.

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Due to the importance odontology plays in everything from criminal convictions to the identification of missing persons, the American Board of Forensic Odontology was created in 1976 to establish credentials for this increasingly significant field of forensic science. There are currently 86 Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Odontology.

Best Colleges For Forensic Odontology

1University of New HavenWest Haven, Connecticut
2University of Pittsburgh-BradfordBradford, Pennsylvania
3Columbia CollegeColumbia, South Carolina
4Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing, Michigan
5Arizona State University-TempeTempe, Arizona

This is a ranking of the Best Forensic Science Colleges for 2021 in the U.S. This ranking is designed for students to make informed college and degree decisions in studying Forensic Science.

A Forensic Science degree opens many doors to a multitude of well-paying and exciting career paths. While this degree can lead to some of the jobs featured on popular forensic science TV shows, graduates leave with sharp analytical and investigative skills that can be applied across many fields.

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At its core, a Forensic Science degree gives students the scientific tools necessary to approach solving crimes in various roles.

Forensic Science a highly multi-disciplinary field that involves studying biology, chemistry, mathematics, criminal law, criminology, forensic psychology, forensic accounting, and a student’s chosen specific field (like blood splatter, toxicology, ballistics, or handwriting).

Students will push their observational powers and analytical reasoning while they prepare to contribute to solving cases that have impacted real people in the context of real crimes.

Some graduates might find themselves drawn to forensic anthropology, toxicology, crime scene photography, or occupations outside of crime investigation. Career paths like being an arson investigator or a forensic accountant (someone who investigates financial documents) also start with a forensic science program. You can even use the degree less traditionally as a high school teacher, police officer, or paralegal.

The Best Forensic Science Colleges 2021

1. University of New Haven

Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences

West Haven, Connecticut

  • School Type: Private
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science, Master of Science in Forensic Science, Master of Science in Forensic Technology

One of the most comprehensive forensic sciences colleges in the nation, the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science offers a wide range of intensive programs for those with a passion for upholding justice and helping others.

Students learn from faculty who have worked for the CIA, FBI, local and state police departments, and the United Nations.

Students also can study in the world-renowned, state-of-the-art Henry C. Lee Institute for Forensic Science, which features working crime scene labs and high-tech visual displays.

The University offers three degrees related to the forensic science field.

The Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science helps students sharpen their powers of observation and learn to interpret evidence.

One of the first forensic science programs in the nation, the Master of Science in Forensic Science provides students with practical and theoretical knowledge needed to apply scientific and analytical methods to criminal investigation.

The first-of-its-kind Master of Science in Forensic Technology combines cutting-edge technology with the Forensic Science discipline. Students will learn a variety of forensic field technology, including laser scanners, ground-penetrating radar, biometric devices, and more.

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: Applicants must submit official high school transcript, a personal essay, at least one letter of recommendation and SAT/ACT scores. Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Applicants must submit official transcripts and proof of bachelor’s degree completion, two letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. A resume is highly recommended but not required. Depending on the major, official test scores (GRE, GMAT, etc.) may be required.

2. University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

Bradford, Pennsylvania

  • School Type: Public
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

The University of Pittsburgh, Bradford’s Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science program introduces students to the operation of police agencies and the courts as well as a background in the science of forensic investigation.

The major includes coursework in chemistry, biology, criminal justice, and mathematics.

Students must complete a concentration in either chemistry or biology.

Through required labs and work in the Crime Scene Investigation House, students gain hands-on experience in analyzing hair, drugs, fiber and DNA for their senior capstone project.

The program prepares graduates for careers in industry and government labs as well as forensic science labs.

Courses include:

  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Criminal Evidence/Investigation
  • Criminal Forensics I and II

3. Columbia College

Columbia, South Carolina

  • School Type: Private Liberal Arts College
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Forensic Concentration, Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

Columbia College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Forensic Concentration.

Offered both in a traditional on-campus format as well as online, the program provides students with a broad foundation in criminal justice as well as an in-depth understanding of forensics.

Students gain knowledge of criminological theory, leadership, ethics, and courts.

Courses in the Forensics concentration include:

  • Forensic Toxicology with Lab
  • Forensic DNA with Lab
  • FBI Fingerprint Recognition and Comparison

Columbia also offers an online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice.Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: Applicants must submit transcripts; letters of recommendation and SAT/ACT scores are optional. Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Applicants must submit an essay, transcripts, two letters of recommendation and eligibility documentation such as GPA standard, teacher’s certificate, or MAT or GRE scores.

4. Michigan State University

School of Criminal Justice

East Lansing, Michigan

  • School Type: Public
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Master of Science in Forensic Science

Michigan State University has a long history as a premier institution for research and education in forensic science. Its School of Criminal Justice combines a legacy of leadership in criminal justice with cutting-edge education and research.

The school’s Bachelor’s degree program in Forensic Science has evolved into a Master of Science in Forensic Science with courses in forensic science, law, criminal justice and an emphasis on forensic chemistry.

Throughout the program, students complete research in Forensic Science including an independent project that features a written thesis and oral defense.

Students receive funding to present their research at national and local conferences, and are encouraged to complete internships.

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5. Arizona State University-Tempe

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, ASU Online

Tempe, Arizona

  • School Type: Public University
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Online Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science, Certificate in Criminal Investigations

Arizona State University’s Online Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science (PSM) program prepares those who work in the forensic science field for career advancement. The program provides students with a pathway to develop competencies related to laboratory supervision.

Course topics include botany, forensic science and government, toxicology, forensic DNA, and ethics.

Students also complete an applied project at the end of the program.

The University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice also offers a Certificate in Criminal Investigations, which focuses on aspects of criminal investigations and criminalistics. The program provides students with an understanding of the nature of criminal evidence; the language of forensic science; and the scope, probative value and limitations of investigative specializations and techniques.

Required courses include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Investigations
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Procedural Criminal Law
  • Documenting the Crime Scene

Students also can gain real-world experience by completing an internship.Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: SAT or ACT requirement: Yes. Minimum GPA requirement: 3.00. Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the last 60 credit hours (or 90 quarter hours) of undergraduate study. GRE or GMAT requirement: Yes. Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission provides Arizona State University with accreditation.

6. Long Island University

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Brookville, New York

  • School Type: Private University
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

LIU Post’s Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree program combines lecture courses with laboratory work and hands-on field experiences.

Students learn a broad range of forensic applications such as molecular pathology, criminalistics, human genetics and forensic anthropology.

Students complete internships at Long Island and Manhattan crime laboratories, health departments and medical examiners’ offices.

Taught by practicing forensic scientists, medical professionals and LIU Post professors, courses include:

  • Introduction to Criminalistics
  • Toxicology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Molecular Techniques
  • Criminal Procedure

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: Applicants must submit a Secondary School Report and a letter of recommendation. Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Applicants must submit a letter of recommendation and a personal statement.

7. Temple University

College of Science and Technology

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • School Type: Public Research University
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Chemistry

Temple University’s College of Science and Technology offers a Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Chemistry, which teaches students the scientific methods used to detect, examine and process non-biological trace evidence to identify unknown materials.

Students learn both the legal and the scientific aspects of forensic chemistry and gain conceptual knowledge and practical skills.

Course topics include analytical and forensic chemistry, applied biopharmaceutics, data analysis, ethics, law and toxicology.

Students also gain up-to-date skills at annual seminars facilitated by leaders in forensic chemistry as well as hands-on experience through the onsite modular, forensic chemistry laboratory.

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Students can complete an independent study project and an internship.

The university also houses the Temple University Forensics Organization, which introduces students to the field of forensic science. Club members also take trips to the Philadelphia Crime lab, where they can network with professionals in the field.Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: Applicants must submit high school transcripts. Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Application requirements vary by school or college.

8. Montclair State University

Justice Studies Department

Montclair, New Jersey

  • School Type: Public Research University
  • Degree Information: Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies with a Justice Systems Concentration

Students interested in a forensic science career can begin their studies with a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies with a Justice Systems Concentration from Montclair State University.

The interdisciplinary program focuses on the relationship between the justice system, society and the law while emphasizing theories of law enforcement, crime, punishment and the administration of justice.

The specialization includes courses in

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Evidence

Students gain real-world experience through an internship.Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: Applicants must submit transcripts.

The university also recommends that students submit ACT/SAT scores.Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Applicants must submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation.

Depending on the program, essays and standardized test scores also may be required.

9. Ohio State University-Main Campus

Columbus, Ohio

  • School Type: Public University
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Forensic Science Minor, Biology Major with a Forensic Biology Specialization

While Ohio State University does not offer a degree in Forensic Science, the university offers programs as well as a field school that may be of interest to those seeking forensic science related careers.

The Department of Anthropology’s Forensic Science Minor provides students with a broad-based understanding of the field of forensic science. Students receive knowledge of basic issues and the applications of those methods within the context of forensic science.

Courses include:

  • Introduction to Forensic Sciences
  • Introduction to Forensic Anthropology
  • Introduction to Anatomy
  • Human Osteology

Through the Center for Life Sciences Education, students also can complete a Biology Major with a Forensic Biology Specialization.

The Department of Anthropology also offers an intensive Forensic Science and Anthropology Field School where students process both indoor and outdoor crime scenes and examine skeletal evidence.

Admission Requirements for Undergraduate Students: SAT or ACT requirement: Yes. Minimum GPA of transfer credit: 2.0 Admission Requirements for Graduate Students: Graduate applicants must hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.

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10. New York University

School of Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine

New York, New York

  • School Type: Private
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Forensic Medicine Elective

Founded in 1841, the New York University School of Medicine is one of the foremost medical schools in the nation.

Through the Department of Forensic Medicine, the NYU School of Medicine partners with the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner to offer two elective courses for medical students.

The Forensic Medicine Elective provides medical students with an orientation to basic forensic medicine. Students observe medicolegal autopsies, participate in departmental conferences, review in-hospital deaths and out-of-hospital death scenes, and accompanying forensic pathologists to court when they testify as expert witnesses at criminal trials.

The Forensic Neuropathology Elective provides students with knowledge of neurological conditions seen in forensic cases and an introduction to Medical Examiner’s Office. Students examine neuropathological specimens, visit death scenes and accompany forensic pathologists to court.

Accreditation: New York University receives accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

11. Grand Canyon University

College of Science, Engineering, & Technology

Phoenix, Arizona

Grand Canyon offers the Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree, on campus. This program teaches chemistry and biology as the foundation, and puts them into the context of forensic science training.

Forensic science competencies that students will learn are:

  • forensic DNA analysis
  • crime scene processing
  • toxicology
  • forensic photography
  • serology

As an on-campus program, students will learn to collect and analyze forensic evidence samples in the classroom but also in the field. Students learn best practices on crime scene evaluations, such as photography, evidence collecting, and analyses, with the purpose of making sense of what happened in the crime.

The bachelor of science in Forensic Science requires 120 credit hours. 76 are in the major, with general credits ranging from 34 – 40 credit hours, and 4 – 10 electives.

Core courses include:

  • General Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Crime Scene Processing
  • Body Fluid and DNA Analysis

Seniors will have a Capstone in Forensic Science.

Grand Canyon also offers the online Master of Science in Forensic Science program. This program is 36 credit hours in length, and can be completed online. Students will be able to conduct hands-on collection and analyses of forensic evidence, using a laboratory at home.

Core courses include:

  • Advanced Topics in Forensic Science
  • Comparative Methods
  • Applied Statistics for Forensic Science
  • Courtroom Presentation of Scientific Evidence

Students will learn in the forensic science domains of chemistry, biology, genetics, and statistics, among others.

12. Liberty University

School of Health Sciences

Lynchburg, Virginia

  • School Type: Private
  • Forensic Science Degree Information: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

Liberty University is a leader in online education and one of the largest schools in the nation in terms of enrolled students.

Liberty offers the on-campus Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree.

The Forensic Science bachelor’s is interdisciplinary, and teaches students from Criminal Justice, Biology, and Chemistry. There are hands-on labs for almost all of the classes taken through the Department of Biology and Chemistry. Liberty accepts transferring in up to 75% of the degree in accepted transfer credits. This degree also provides opportunities for internships in New York City and Washington D.C.

Length: The program is 120 credit hours and students can usually finish in four years.

Major courses include:

  • Forensic DNA Analysis
  • Forensic Entomology
  • Criminal Investigations I
  • Trace Evidence

Liberty offers the online Master’s in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology as well. This program is 36 credit hours. Courses are 8 weeks long, and students can usually complete this degree in 1 and a half years. This master’s programs teaches online master’s students how to become professional psychologists for forensic purposes. It’s a degree oriented for assisting people affected by crime or abuse, and for unlocking and aiding law enforcement through psychological tenets.

Accreditation: Liberty University’s Forensic Science program receives accreditation from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).

How to Become a Forensic Odontologist

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (4 Years)

Just as with aspiring dentists and physicians, students must prepare themselves in the best way possible for medical school by completing a premed program.

Due to the competitive nature of graduate medical programs, students should aim to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher for the best chances of admission into their school of their choosing.

The preparation timeline below provides an example premed curriculum:

Grade LevelExample Courses
FreshmanHealth Care SystemsBiology I & LabBiology II & LabCalculus IChemistry I & LabChemistry II & LabPsychologyHumanities RequirementsElectives
SophomorePublic HealthAnatomy & Physiology I & LabAnatomy & Physiology II & LabStatisticsOrganic Chemistry I & LabOrganic Chemistry II & LabBasic Skills for HealthcareNutritionHumanities RequirementsElectives
JuniorHealthcare Communication Healthcare Professional Writing Genetics & Microbiology I & Lab Physics I & Lab Physics II & Lab Problems in Healthcare Healthcare Research Biochemistry I & Lab Humanities Requirements Electives
SeniorHealth in the USHealth Education & PlanningHealthcare ManagementHealth PolicyCapstoneRemaining Requirements & Electives

2. Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant’s knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

SectionSection Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems59 multiple-choice questions95 minutes Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems59 multiple-choice questions95 minutesTests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior59 multiple-choice questions95 minutesTests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills52 multiple-choice questions90 minutesTess reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the MCAT website. If you are unsatisfied with your score on any of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

3. Earn a Medical Degree (4 Years)

All forensic odontologists are also dentists, meaning they must earn a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) or Doctor of Dental Science (DDS) degree as a prerequisite to their forensic career.

Considerable extra training is also needed along with practical experience, typically earned alongside a seasoned forensic professional.

A list of accredited medical education programs is available through the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

For more information and advice on successfully getting into medical school, you can check with the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Medical school consists of four years of studying the basics in science and participating in clinical “rotations.”

These are hands-on clinical experiences in real health care settings. In most med schools, the first two years are taken up with classroom studies before students are assigned to do rotations.

The current trend, however, finds a number of medical schools exposing students to early clinical experiences that continue throughout the four-year program.

Most medical schools base their curriculum on a system-based approach that focuses on one physiological system at a time, such as the respiratory system or the nervous system.

Still others may use a case-based curriculum that teaches about the human body’s normal functioning and disease processes by assigning students to following individual patient cases from start to finish.

Still other med schools use a combination of these approaches to educate their students.

The most common lines of coursework among medical schools consist of the following subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Psychology

During the last two years of schooling, students are required to obtain hands-on experience at hospitals and clinics, learning to diagnose and treat patients while working under the supervision of licensed physicians.

Upon completion of four years of med school, a student is awarded a medical degree, or M.D. Another popular trend is for schools to offer combination degree programs, such as MD/MPH, MD/PHD or MD/JD.

The AAMC’s website on Medical School Admission Requirements offers more information on this option. The preparation timeline below provides an example Doctor of Dental Medicine curriculum:

YearExample Courses
1stCells and TissuesMolecular Foundations of MedicineApplied BiochemistryGeneticsDisease Mechanisms & DevelopmentCardiac Life SupportThe Nervous SystemImmunologyGross Anatomy of Head & NeckMicrobiologyPulmonary SystemMicrobiology
2ndRenal/Genitourinary SystemGastrointestinal SystemSkin/Endocrine SystemsReproduction & Women’s HealthMicrobiologyBehavior & the BrainHematologySystemic DiseasesMicrobiologyClinical Clerkship
3rd, 4th, 5thInternal MedicinePediatricsSurgeryObstetrics & GynecologyFamily MedicinePsychiatryNeurologyCritical CareAmbulatory MedResearch, Reflections, and Advances in Patient Care

4. Earn the Required Certification

The American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO), part of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), offers board certification.

This is only open to specialists who pass a test after earning 350 qualification points through professional development programs, and work at least 25 cases.

forensic dentistry courses

Forensic Odontology Degree and Certificate Program

To work within the field of forensic odontology, students must first pursue a traditional four-year D.M.D. or D.D.S. degree. Students in these programs learn both technical and medical elements of oral care as well as how to give routine dental examinations, fill cavities, interpret x-rays and perform other diagnostic tests and treatment procedures. Students should have their bachelor’s degree in a scientific field, as well as some related work experience, when applying to a D.M.D. or D.D.S. program.

Dental school graduates can then apply for forensic odontology training programs if they wish. Specialized training is not required for a dentist to act as a forensic odonotologist, although a training program can add validity and reliability to a dentist’s testimony during a court case.

Doctor of Dental Medicine and Doctor of Dental Surgery Degrees

The D.M.D. and D.D.S. are the primary degrees earned by these dental professionals. In these programs students perform basic oral surgery, straighten teeth using a variety of devices and make models of the teeth to allow technicians to create bridges and dentures. Students in dental degree programs may have different curricula during their last years of study. However, coursework at the beginning of dental school are basically the same, and might include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Histology
  • Human anatomy
  • Introduction to oral surgery
  • Materials and instruments used in dentistry
  • Neuroscience

Popular Careers

Forensic odontologists usually work as dentists in their specialty. Depending on how they are needed in a particular location, forensic odontologists may work as independent contractors for police departments, coroners or medical examiners.

Employment Outlook

The number of dentist jobs is anticipated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to increase from about 155,000 in 2018 to 166,600 in 2028 ( This 7% increase is greater than that for all other jobs in general. As of May 2018, average annual salary for dentists in general was $175,840, the BLS reported.

Forensic Odontologist |

Continuing Education

Graduates of the D.D.S. and D.M.D. programs who wish to specialize may choose to earn a Master of Science or a Doctor of Science in Dentistry. Different specialties may take from 1-4 years for a master’s or 3-4 years for the doctorate.

In every state and Washington, D.C., dentists must be licensed. Although requirements vary from state to state, most states require a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree from an accredited program and the passing of a licensing exam, which includes both written and practical sections. Each state has continuing education requirements for license maintenance, which may range from 12-30 hours each year.

Forensic odontology is a subfield of general dentistry. Students interested in working in this field can follow the traditional path of becoming a dentist and then pursue a training or certification program to gain experience within the field.

Professional Certification for Forensic Dentists

Because of the need for forensic dentists to achieve training specific to the field of odontology, professional certification through the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) is commonplace, as it allows forensic dentists to demonstrate their knowledge of forensic science and forensic odontology.

Candidates who want to achieve certification through the AAFS must:

  • Possess a DDS, DMD or an equivalent dental degree from an accredited institution
  • Have attended at least 4 annual meetings of a national forensic/forensic dental organization
  • Have participated in at least 2 annual programs of a national forensic/forensic dental organization
  • Be currently active and affiliated with a medical/legal agency such as a medical examiner/coroner’s office, mass disaster team, insurance agency, or law enforcement agency for at least 2 years
  • Have observed at least 5 medicolegal autopsies attested to by the pathologist in charge
  • Have performed at least 30 legitimate forensic dental cases (will be 35 as of June 2014)
  • Have performed at least 20 human identification cases, 15 of which resulted in a positive identification

Upon meeting the minimum requirements for certification, candidates must take and pass a comprehensive examination, which includes the following topics:

  • Demonstrating forensic odontology foundation skills
  • Gathering, documenting, and maintaining evidence
  • Demonstrating knowledge of identification
  • Participating in mass disaster management
  • Demonstrating knowledge of bite marks
  • Demonstrate knowledge of human abuse
  • Demonstrating knowledge of craniofacial, anatomy, anthropology, and pathology
  • Demonstrating professional, ethical, and legal responsibilities

Forensic Odonatologist Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dentists earned a median annual salary of $146,290 in May 2010, with the top 10 percent earning more than $166,400. A recent job posting for a forensic dentist showed a salary range of $80,236 and $125,875.

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