Boardman dentist helps solve crimes - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Boardman dentist helps solve crimes

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In a recent case of a man found burned to death in his own car, investigators have to rely on dental records to identify who the victim is.

A Boardman dentist is one of just seven people in the state who is qualified to perform forensic dentistry.

Dr. Robert Johnson sees a lot of patients at his Boardman dentist office.  But sometimes the people he works on aren't always alive. That's not his fault though.  

For over 30 years, Dr. Johnson has worked with the Ohio State Dental Forensic Team to help identify bodies that can't be ID'ed because they are either decomposed, burned or died through other tragic or violent means.

 "Our teeth are the strongest substance in our bodies, so they withstand most abuse. So even when a lot of areas can't be used, our teeth are still there and our fillings are still there and they are kind of unique to us," said Johnson.

So how does he do it?

"I look at all their fillings and missing teeth, any restorations any abnormal things that might be found in their mouth and we would compare those things to what we have before death," said Johnson.

Sometimes Dr. Johnson is needed in court to testify in abuse cases to identify bite marks.
But when there are mass fatality situations dental forensics are definitely needed.

Most of the cases Dr. Johnson has worked on are in Ohio, but he did travel to New York City in 2001 to help identify the remains of the 911 victims.

He says there is a need for more highly trained forensic dentists but he warns it's not like what you see on TV.

"People think of CSI where everything is solved in an hour and that's not really the reality of what's out there. There are a lot of good trained forensic dentists across the country and they kind of go unseen and that's great because we aren't looking for publicity we are just trying to help the public," Johnson said.

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