Pink teeth of the dead: II. Minor variations

Van Wyk C.W. (1988)


One hundred and seventy five ground sections of teeth removed for age determination from unidentified bodies were reviewed. The causes of death were motor vehicle accidents, murders, train accidents, natural causes, gunshot wounds, fires, drownings, suicides, explosions and unknown causes. The period after death at the time of the extractions ranged from 1 day to over 21 days and were unknown in some cases. In addition, 20 sections of freshly extracted teeth from patients undergoing treatment were studied after preparation in batches of 5 on day 4, 10, 15 and 20 after extraction. Forty five of the 175, and none of the 20 freshly extracted teeth depicted a dark discoloration of the pulp. The discoloration involved the coronal, the radicular or the whole pulp. The discoloured material consisted of structureless pulp tissue, prominent darkly pigmented vessels or both. Staining of the dentine was present in 13 specimens, always in relation to the discoloured part of the pulp and occurred only in those teeth where the pulpal tissues were homogeneously discoloured. No statistical correlation could be found between causes of death, period after death or any of the pulpal features associated with staining. It is concluded that when teeth appear pink clinically they represent the most prominent form of post-mortem staining and that a spectrum of minor staining patterns of the pulp and dentine exists.

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