President’s Message – Midyear

Check out President Gary Berman’s midyear message here.

Dental Identification Workshop Now Available

The Dental Identification Workshop is now available to purchase for  »

Expert Witness Testimony Workshop Available

The Expert Witness Testimony Workshop is now available in the Public  »

president’s message



Midyear message:

Forensic Odontology is once again headline news. Unfortunately this time it is not for our service to country, community and victim’s families after a mass disaster. Rather it is for the controversy in the field of bitemark analysis performed my many of our Diplomates and others.


Back in 1976 the American Board of Forensic Odontology was organized under the auspices of the National Institute of Justice. This was in response to the need for forensic scientists unequivocally qualified to provide essential professional services for the Nation’s judicial and executive branches of government. The ABFO is comprised of individuals who are nationally and internationally recognized experts. The ABFO is accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) as a forensic specialty offering board certification to qualified dentists.
The objective of the Board is to establish, enhance, and revise as necessary, standards of qualifications for those who practice forensic odontology, and to certify as qualified specialists those voluntary applicants who comply with the requirements of the Board. In this way, the Board aims to make available a practical and equitable system for readily identifying those persons professing to be specialists in forensic odontology who possess the requisite qualifications and competence.


The Board has long recognized an ongoing need for continuing education and research, and to this end sponsors both outside research and workshops for interested Forensic Odontologist.
The American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) is firmly and irrevocably dedicated to provide true and accurate information to ensure the administration of justice. Since its founding in the mid-1970s, the members have worked to improve accuracy and eliminate bias in their results. Forensic dentists have been instrumental in the identification of literally thousands of people who perished in fires, floods, accidents, and homicides and whose families without these services might never have received the closure they deserve; they have also assisted in uncounted situations of identification of unknown remains. Forensic dentists have also become involved in the analysis of patterned injuries caused by teeth, “bitemarks”. The ABFO is acutely aware of cases involving bitemark analysis in the past that have contributed to several individuals wrongly being convicted. The ABFO has updated and improved its recommendations for appropriate investigation, evidence collection procedures and methods of bitemark analysis and its “Bitemark Methodology Standards and Guidelines” is continuing to evolve.


This document contains:
Methods to Document Human Bitemark Evidence
Human Bitemark Analysis Guidelines
Bitemark Terminology Guidelines
Bitemark Case Review Guidelines
Guidelines for Investigative and Final Bitemark Report.


It is the ABFO’s belief that Bitemark Analysis when performed with appropriate analysis, based on continuous study and scientific research with conservative conclusions can be extremely helpful in the legal system.


Drs. Silver and Souviron write in their book, “Dental Autopsy, 2009”
• “A bitemark can show and demonstrate pain
• A bitemark can be offensive as well as defensive
• A bitemark usually demonstrates violence
• A bitemark may produce a permanent injury……, It elevates a simple battery to aggravated battery…
• A bitemark can, in certain cases, be distinctive in both class and individual characteristics and may yield a dental profile of the biter….
• A bitemark can, in some cases, help to determine the age of the biter (child vs adult)
• A bitemark or marks can be aged. In cases of child or elderly abuse, multiple bites over time will show a pattern of abuse…
• A bitemark may give a clue as to when it occurred in relation to the time the victim died…..
• A bitemark may give information as to the position of the biter and victim when the bite was inflicted…..
• A bitemark may or can yield salivary DNA to help with the identification of the suspect.”


Even the N.A.S. Report, “ Strengthening Forensic Science: A Path Forward” stated on page 176, “…can sometimes reliably exclude suspects”.
Several ABFO members have assisted in high-profile exoneration cases and are continuing to do so.


As found in our ABFO Diplomates manual, “Terms assuring unconditional identification of a perpetrator, or identification “without doubt”, are not sanctioned as a final conclusions in an open population case by the ABFO. The ABFO does not support a conclusion of “THE BITER” in an open population.”


In order to improve the study of bitemarks the ABFO developed a decision tree to assist practitioners in the proper selection and pathways of analysis in bitemark analysis. Drs. Pretty and Freeman designed a study with the assistance of some ABFO members providing the case materials to evaluate the reliability of Step 1 of a proposed revision to the bitemark analysis and comparison decision tree. This was presented at the AAFS meeting in Orlando in 2015.


Statistical analysis of the results of that study showed poor overall agreement, utilizing Step 1, among the individuals who participated in the survey. Post analyses of the results indicate that the design of the survey and the design of Step 1 of the decision tree may be flawed, and that the ABFO guideline term of “suggestive” of a human bitemark may be the root cause. The ABFO in reaffirming its commitment to ensure accuracy in bitemark analysis is currently revising and updating the terminology used in the decision tree to ensure reliable results by forensic dentists. Drs. Freeman and Pretty will be continuing their preliminary research after new terminology is approved the Diplomates of the ABFO.


First Quarter Message:

I am honored to be able to serve as the President of the ABFO for 2015-2016. I would like to thank all those that encouraged and mentored me.  I want to personally thank Dr. Allan Warnick, Dr Jack Kenney, and Dr. Phil Levine (recently deceased) for all their encouragement the past 24 years.  It has been a wonderful journey to reach this milestone, and I am humbled as I attempt to lead this fine organization.  I thank Dr. Peter Loomis, our immediate Past President for keeping us moving forward during his tenure.  I feel like the little brother in school following the older brother that gets straight As.  I also want to thank the members of the Executive Committee, Board of Directors and the Standing and Ad Hoc Committee members for their invaluable contributions to the ABFO.


I join all of the members of the ABFO in welcoming our newest Diplomate: Dr. Phyllis Ho of New York.


I echo the sadness and sorrow of all of our members in the recent passing of Dr. Philip Levine and Dr. Gerald Reynolds and extend to their families my condolences. Each contributed significantly to the field of forensic odontology and their presence will be missed by all.


I also repeat the prayers and best wishes of our membership for Dr.Skip Sperber who was awarded his ABFO Diplomat Emeritus certificate in California just prior to the meeting.


Congratulations to Steve Kinney on being awarded the Haskell Pitluck award.  I join our organization in thanking both Mr. Kinney and Aribex for their support of the ABFO during the past year.


We had a great meeting in Orlando.  The Annual ABFO Dinner was well attended and the food and hospitality at Maggiano’s Little Italy was outstanding – thank you Drs. Jan Westberry and Kenneth Cohrn for making all of the arrangements for our meeting.   The Age-estimation Workshop on the second weekend as well as the Bitemark Workshop on the first weekend were great successes.   Thank you to the members who worked so diligently to put them on and who contributed their time and knowledge as speakers and evaluators. Special thanks to Drs. Lewis, Freeman, and David for steering these workshops.   Remember, next year in Las Vegas the ABFO will present workshops on Dental Identification on the Saturday before (Feb 20, 2016) and Civil Litigation on the Sunday before (Feb 21, 2016). Look for info elsewhere on the website.


The Bitemark Proficiency Examination Development Committee in concert with ORA met for a full day in Orlando to continue their work in developing a bitemark proficiency examination.


In order to improve the study of bitemarks the ABFO developed a decision tree to assist practitioners in the proper selection and pathways of analysis in bitemark analysis.  The ABFO has conducted preliminary research, presented in Orlando, designed to evaluate the first step of a revised decision tree; statistical analysis of the study showed inconsistent overall agreement among the individuals who participated in the project.   The ABFO in reaffirming its commitment to ensure accuracy in bitemark analysis is revising the decision tree to ensure reliable results by forensic dentists and will be conducting additional studies this year.


The Image Series IV Committee will be releasing the newest version this year.  It will have a different format and more extensive target market.  It will be downloadable from the ABFO website. Please contact Dr. Paula Brumit with any questions, and look for its sale on the ABFO website.


As a result of petitioning from the ABFO and others an Odontology Subcommittee has been created under the Crime Scene Death Investigation SAC.  Dr. Barsley was appointed to chair the NIST OSAC Odontology Subcommittee and Drs. Dobrin, Freeman, Lewis, Loomis, McGivney, Metcalf, Senn and Wright along with 7 other members were initially appointed to sit on this subcommittee.  Drs. Tewes and Filippi have recently been appointed as affiliates.  Dr. Allan Warnick was appointed to the OSAC DVI Subcommittee.


Finally, the ABFO membership at its Monday meeting voted that for ABFO recertification the candidates must attend at least one annual business meeting of the ABFO Diplomates during the five year recertification period.


As always, the Executive Committee and Board of Directors serves you, the Diplomates.
Let’s keep the lines of communication open to enhance the ABFO experience through our
combined efforts, and make this a productive and successful year.


Gary Berman DDS
President ABFO

The American Board of Forensic Odontology, Inc.