Variation in elemental composition of human teeth and its application for feasible species identification
Abstract Identifying human remains is a primary task in forensic science. In this study, we propose a possible new technique, handheld X-ray fluorescence (HHXRF), for determining whether a suspected tooth is an authentic human tooth. A total of 444 teeth obtained from 111 human skulls (male=62, female=49) aged between 30–67 years (51.81±8.37 years) were used as subjects. The teeth were scanned by HHXRF to acquire their elemental profile. Differences in elemental composition were analyzed for different tooth positions (numbers 1–32), between crown and root, and between sexes (male and female); also, the proportion of elements in relation to different human ages was examined. Teeth from 20 different animal species, serving as non-human teeth samples, were used to distinguish between human and non-human teeth through a stepwise discriminant analysis. Our results revealed that different tooth positions, different regions (crown and root) of a tooth, and different sexes demonstrated disparities in the proportion of several elements. The accuracy rate of predicting sex based on the elemental profile of human teeth was 65.5%. Likewise, a dissimilar distribution of elements between human and non-human teeth was observed, leading to a high degree of correctness of 83.2% for distinguishing them. In conclusion, elemental analysis by HHXRF could serve as a promising candidate tool for identifying human teeth in forensic science, but is ineffective for sex determination. Highlights XRF analysis is a nondestructive technique for determining elemental profiles. Uneven distribution of elements was noted for position, region and sex. XRF can discriminate human teeth from teeth of other species.
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