Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.
This question comes to us from an undergraduate student who is requesting more information about forensic odontology and the path she should take to get there. If you would like to provide advice for her and other students like her, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Questions may be edited for clarity.)
“Hello, I am a 20-year-old undergraduate college student, majoring in science, with the goal of working in the forensic odontology field. However, my school has little to no information on the route I should take to achieve this goal. There is no one to either talk to or assist me in my career choice and I am feeling very lost at this point. I began doing research to see what my options are and now I’m wondering if I am on the right path at all. It doesn’t appear that there are any schools that offer workshops or learning opportunities in my area and I’m feeling very discouraged. What steps should I take to become a forensic odontologist and where can I go to get some hands-on experience while working towards my undergraduate degree? Please help!”
Answer provided by Dr. John Kenney, DDS, MS:
“Forensic odontology is not a stand-alone specialty; in fact, nearly every odontologist is either a university-based or private practice dentist. There are very few (very few and far between) Registered Dental Hygienists who have a serious interest in forensic odontology. As a membership requirement with the Odontology Section of the AAFS, you must hold a DDS, DMD, or foreign equivalent (BDS in Europe, for example).
The first step is to pursue a dental degree; you need a way to make a living. Most forensic odontologists work on a consulting basis with a coroner or medical examiner’s office.”
The following information was gleaned from the Odontology pages of “So You Want to be a Forensic Scientist!” booklet:
AAFS offers annual forensic dental programs in the form of workshops, presentations, and poster sessions. The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board and the American Board of Forensic Odontology have certification programs in forensic dentistry.
Additionally, the American Society of Forensic Odontology (ASFO) has a day-long course, during the AAFS annual scientific meeting. The ASFO membership is open to anyone with an interest in forensic dentistry.
Additional information about choosing a career in the world of forensic science can be found here: http://aafs.org/students/student-career/choosing-career.
If you have a question about a career choice, about becoming more involved in the YFSF, or about anything forensic-science related, please submit your questions using the “Contact YFSF” tab on the new YFSF website at http://yfsf.aafs.org/.