by Ms. Chiara Lucanto
Forensic odontology is a branch of forensic science which proves to be very useful during the investigation of criminal cases and during the identification of persons, providing dental expertise in court. Forensic odontology deals with the examination of hard and soft tissue injuries, the assessment of human abuse, the identification of an individual in criminal investigations and mass disasters, the analysis of bite marks.
The tongue is a vital internal organ, enclosed in the oral cavity and protected from the external environment. The tongue is a set of mobile muscles, richly supplied with blood and nerves. It performs various functions, such as the articulation of speech, taste perception and bolus formation.
Morphology and surface characteristics are attributes of each person and these characteristics can be used as evidence of criminological distinction. The tongue has a unique shape and surface texture in each individual. The shape, colour and texture of the tongue are different in twins. Its unique characteristics make it a valuable tool for forensic odontology. Therefore, with further development, it can be used as a new method of personal identification. The characteristics of the tongue present a sexual dimorphism that helps to identify the person.
According to one study, patients with a sharp tongue tip were females and males had septate tips. The length and width of the tongue increased compared to females. On histological examination, it was observed that there was a significant difference in the orientation of the muscle fibres of the tongue between men and women, with features in the central region of the tongue. For evaluation are the vitality, colour, shape, moisture and movement in the case of live cases. The surface coating is normally light white in colour and a thin, uniform layer. Alterations in these features are indicative of disease and can be used for diagnostic purposes.
The use of tongue prints as forensic identification is in an emerging stage, but now its use as a biometric authentication system is gaining in popularity. Biometrics is the measure and statistical analysis of a person’s physical and behavioral traits, which are used for their authentication. It depends mainly on the matching score. The higher the matching score between the input and the database, the greater the chances of two samples matching.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tongue examination was performed to identify various diseases. According to Amit Bade et al, the use of tongue prints to identify a person was first proposed by Zhi Liu in 2007.
There are various biometric systems used to recognise a person’s identity, including fingerprint, face, palm print, iris, hand shape, gait, voice and signature. However, these traditional biometric systems have certain limitations, as they can be easily falsified. The tongue is a mobile organ and therefore the need to maintain the same position each time the tongue print is acquired is a fundamental limitation. Tongue prints, being unique, cannot be falsified. The unique nature of the tongue print makes it an excellent tool for personal identification and biometrics. The lingual photographic image taken by the dentist can serve as a guide for personal identification. Tongue prints have a promising future in this digitalised world as a forensic odontology tool.
Not much scientific research work has been conducted on Tongue imprints as a forensic tool and therefore further studies in this area that can bring more clarity should be encouraged. This helps to create a database of Tongue imprints for identification purposes. The use of tongue prints as a biometric authentication tool has been subject of research and studies have shown that the potential of tongue prints as a forensic tool is justified.
- Liu Z, Yan J-Q, Zhang D, Tang Q-L, editors. A tongue-print image database for recognition. 2007 International Conference on Machine Learning and Cybernetics; 2007: IEEE.v
- Nimbulkar, G., Patil, R., Nathani, S., Salve, S., Chhabra, K. G., & Reche, S. D. A. (2020). Tongue prints: A forensic review. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, 14(4), 6802-6806.
- Radhika, T., Jeddy, N., & Nithya, S. (2016). Tongue prints: A novel biometric and potential forensic tool. Journal of forensic dental sciences, 8(3), 117.
- Sangala, B. N., Munisekhar, M. S., Ganji, K. K., Salloum, M. G., Kassab, M. F., & Alam, M. K. (2022). Role of Tongue Prints in Forensic Odontology and Biometrics: A Systematic Review. International Medical Journal, 29(5), 262-265.
- Sivakumar, T. T., Nair, S. S., Zacharias, G. C., Nair, M. S., & Joseph, A. P. (2018). Identification of tongue print images for forensic science and biometric authentication. Journal of Intelligent & Fuzzy Systems, 34(3), 1421-1426.
This Article is written by Ms. Chiara Lucanto. She is Forensic Biologist. Certified Specialist of “Forensic Biology Survey” – Accredited by FAC CERTIFICA / ACCREDIA