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Master of Science in Forensic Dentistry

Forensic dentistry is a fundamental discipline within the forensic sciences answering all medico-legal questions involving the dentition and maxillofacial structures. The two-year master’s program curriculum is designed to provide dentists interested in forensics with the education, training and experience required to clinically perform and produce expert opinions in cases involving single, multiple and mass disaster dental identification in the medical examiner office; assess dental age; recognize human abuse and patterned injury in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. Graduates will be prepared to pursue national and international forensics careers.

Lincoln Memorial University is partnering with the Knox County Regional Forensic Center (RFC) as a part of the educational experience and training. Students will learn how the anthropologist recovers and analyzes decomposed and skeletal remains in clandestine and crime scene situations. Special training includes discovery and archaeological excavation of skeletal and dental remains followed by laboratory interpretation of perimortem ballistic, blunt and sharp-force injury. As part of the program, students, under the guidance of Division of Forensic Dentistry faculty and staff, will provide comprehensive dental and anthropological services to the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office as well as to outside individuals, organizations and agencies.

The master’s degree in Forensic Dentistry is research focused, educating the forensic dentist in qualitative and quantitative research protocols and design methodology. A goal of the program is to produce valuable forensic research both independently and in collaboration with other educational and research institutions.

The degree is awarded by Lincoln Memorial University upon fulfillment of the program requirements, completion of research, production and acceptance of a thesis, and successful defense of the independent research effort.

Program Goals

  •   Education, Training and Experience

    To provide the forensic dentist with the knowledge and clinical skills required to critically evaluate and perform single, multiple and mass disaster dental identifications; estimate human dental age; recognize human abuse and patterned injuries in accordance with the American Board of Forensic Odontology’s Standards and Guidelines.

  •   Forensic Services

    To provide comprehensive dental, anthropological, and DNA services to the Knox County (Tennessee) Regional Forensic Center (Knoxville) and outside individuals, organizations and agencies upon request.

  •   Communication

    To develop forensic report writing styles for legal medicine submission to medical examiners and other medico-legal agencies and authorities; and, to educate the forensic dentist in court room dynamics and develop their skills as an expert witness.

  •   Critical Thinking

    Develop objective evaluation skills, consideration and analysis of an issue in order to form an unbiased judgement or opinion based upon intellectual reasoning and truth. This program will promote and develop a critical approach to collection, analysis and interpretation of forensic dental evidence. Additionally, to critically evaluate and understand published articles and conduct research appropriately.

  •   Research

    To educate the forensic dentist in qualitative and quantitative research protocols and design methodology. It is the goal of the program to produce valuable forensic research both independently and in collaboration with other educational and research institutions.

  •   Clandestine Grave & Crime Scene Recovery of Dental Evidence

    To expose and educate the forensic dentist to how the anthropologist analyzes decomposed and skeletal and dental remains in clandestine and crime scene situations. Special training involves discovery and archaeological excavation of skeletal and dental remains followed by laboratory interpretation of perimortem ballistic, blunt and sharp-force injury.

Curriculum

36 semester hours
  •   Year One - Term One (10 hours)

    Introduction to Forensic Science (2): A survey of the American Academy of Forensic Science forensic specialties and provides basic information on morgue protocols. This course provides the basic medico-legal knowledge and understanding of morgue protocols necessary to perform duties in a medical examiner’s office.

    Graduate Life Science Research Design and Analysis (3): This course covers the principles and applications of research design in the life sciences. This includes framing and articulating a research question, creating testable hypotheses, collecting valid data, approaches to data analyses, and presentation of results. Examples from the primary literature will be discussed and evaluated.

    Radiology (2): This course offers the fundamentals of theory and practice that constitute a working knowledge of the radiologic sciences as they apply to general and forensic dentistry. Laboratory exercises will be utilized to develop practical skills in the area of dental radiographic procedures which serve as the foundation for intraoral radiographic image acquisition and interpretation. The course will cover basic principles and anatomy revealed by intraoral and panoramic imaging as well as cone beam computed tomography (CBCT).

    Forensics Research Methods (2): This course is a hybrid course, combining both lecture and on-line material. The biostatistics portion of this course introduces students to widely used methods for analysis of experimental and observational data with orientation toward statistical inference from dental research. The research methods aspect of this course serves as an introduction to research, including methods for handling experimental data.

    Forensic Science Journal Club (1): An evaluation and discussion of relevant historical and current methodology and trends in forensic dentistry and forensic science (focus choice of faculty).

  •   Year One - Term Two (11 hours)

    F DENT 806: Forensic Odontology I (3): This course is a historical and practical demonstration of the theory and practice in human forensic identification procedures and age assessment methodology. Its aim is to prepare the student to perform human identifications and age assessments in a medical examiner office setting as well as in mass disaster situations. It provides the basic medico-legal knowledge necessary to perform these duties in its application to law and the U.S. legal system.

    F DENT 807 or LSCI 604: Statistics for Research (3): Principles and application of statistical methodology, integrated with considerable use of major statistical computing system. Probability and probability distributions, forming and testing hypotheses using parametric and nonparametric inference methods. Matrix-based simple linear regression and correlation.

    F DENT 808: Dental Ethics (1): Sixteen online modules available through the American College of Dentists identified as particularly relevant to postgraduate dental education and the specialty practice of dentistry will constitute this course. Following completion of online activities, students review modules with individual Postgraduate Program Directors to explore and reinforce ties between ethics concepts learned and specific applications in dental specialty practice.

    Clinical Head & Neck Anatomy (3): This course presents a detailed study of the anatomic structures fundamental to dental specialty training. Detailed gross dissection of the human head and neck with emphasis placed on traditional musculo-skeletal and neuro-vascular architectural relationships as they relate to growth and development. This pedagogy allows immediate recognition of odonto-skeletal structures relevant to positive identification, and the pathology of forensic perimortem trauma. Participants review standard texts of head and neck anatomy and radiology, and other professional literature to support specialty-specific questions/topics.

    Research and Manuscript (1): This course provides postgraduate students with the experience of engaging in dental and related sciences, and to pursue a Masters of Dental Science (MDS) degree. In this course, students will work on individual research projects under the supervision of an individual advisor experienced in research methodologies and scientific writing. Students will work on the inception, implementation, and submission for publication of a research project with an individual advisor. Student activities include library research, writing a literature review, developing a research protocol, hands-on research, gathering and analyzing data, interpreting experimental results, developing conclusions, and publishing outcomes. Submission for publication of the original research is required.

  •   Year Two - Term One (9 hours)

    Dental Specialties Review (2): This course is a review of the current dental school level standards and trends in the areas of biomaterials, endodontics, pedodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, orthodontics, oral/maxillofacial surgery, and oral medicine. It provides basic knowledge in recognition of dental materials, restorations, prostheses, and oral pathology in order to assist the forensic dentist perform duties in application to the law and medico-legal system.

    Forensic Odontology II (3): A continuation of Forensic Odontology I with emphasis on the role of the forensic dentist in pattern injury recognition, analysis and comparison; human abuse; civil litigation; court room dynamics and their role as an expert witness. It provides the basic medico-legal knowledge necessary to perform these duties in its application to law and the U.S. legal system.

    Forensic Science II (3): An advanced exposure to specific forensic science protocols including autopsy and report findings, crime scene procedures including clandestine grave excavation, legal proceedings of criminal investigations, crime scene protocols, corporeal evidence, expert testimony, and courtroom dynamics.

    Research and Manuscript (1): This course provides postgraduate students with the experience of engaging in dental and related sciences, and to pursue a Masters of Dental Science (MDS) degree. In this course, students will work on individual research projects under the supervision of an individual advisor experienced in research methodologies and scientific writing. Students will work on the inception, implementation, and submission for publication of a research project with an individual advisor. Student activities include library research, writing a literature review, developing a research protocol, hands-on research, gathering and analyzing data, interpreting experimental results, developing conclusions, and publishing outcomes. Submission for publication of the original research is required.

  •   Year Two - Term Two (6 hours)

    Research and Manuscript (6): This course provides postgraduate students with the experience of engaging in dental and related sciences, and to pursue a Masters of Dental Science (MDS) degree. In this course, students will work on individual research projects under the supervision of an individual advisor experienced in research methodologies and scientific writing. Students will work on the inception, implementation, and submission for publication of a research project with an individual advisor. Student activities include library research, writing a literature review, developing a research protocol, hands-on research, gathering and analyzing data, interpreting experimental results, developing conclusions, and publishing outcomes. Submission for publication of the original research is required. 

    “Project Option” Thesis (6) and above courses to total 36 hours   

    (Project Option is defined as research performed under the direction of a faculty advisor which will culminate in an oral defense and article submission for publication in a peer reviewed journal.)

    The Forensic Dentistry Faculty recognizes that completion of the Project Option Thesis is ambitious in the proposed two (2) year Program.  Masters students may elect to extend the Program to five (5) terms with three (3) hours of Project Option Thesis taken in Year 2 Term 2 and in Year 3 Term 1.