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Determining the Age-At-Death of Infants, Children, and Teens

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2024

This brief article summarizes a research project that aimed to help forensic scientists identify subadult (ages 0 through 20 years) human remains by providing updated dental modeling with a reference database that includes representative samples from modern American, European, and African populations; it also notes further efforts to expand the database with institutions in India, Cyprus, and Guatemala, to determine the impacts of socioeconomic status on dental development.


Despite decades of research, determining the age-at-death of skeletal remains of individuals ranging from birth to about 20 years old (referred to in forensics as subadults) has proven daunting for forensic investigators. Researchers supported by the National Institute of Justice have developed a statistical framework that enables more precise age estimations. They created a large reference sample of developmental dental data from diverse international populations. The project also addressed common issues encountered in forensic casework, such as missing teeth, that can both inform and restrict the ability of accurately estimating a decedent's dental age. It examined dental development within a transitional analysis framework that allowed for statistical rigor in analyzing dental radiographs of individuals from the United States, Europe, and Africa. The researchers’ primary goal is to update existing dental modeling with a reference database that uses a representative sample from modern populations “to aid in forensic identification of subadult human remains.” The research team had collected almost 12,000 radiographs when they submitted their final report to NIJ in May 2023 and anticipate having more than 13,500 images when they complete the project. The data represented subadults from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The resulting database forms the Transition Analysis Dental Age estimation tool, a publicly available online tool for estimating age using dental development codes.

Date Published: April 1, 2024