Histological transformations of the dental pulp as possible indicator of post mortem interval: a pilot study

Patricio A. Carrasco*, Claudia I. Brizuela, Ismael A. Rodriguez, Samuel Muñoz, Marianela E. Godoy, Carolina Inostroza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background The correct estimation of the post mortem interval (PMI) can be crucial on the success of a forensic investigation. Diverse methods have been used to estimate PMI, considering physical changes that occur after death, such as mortis algor, livor mortis, among others. Degradation after death of dental pulp is a complex process that has not yet been studied thoroughly. It has been described that pulp RNA degradation could be an indicator of PMI, however this study is limited to 6 days. The tooth is the hardest organ of the human body, and within is confined dental pulp. The pulp morphology is defined as a lax conjunctive tissue with great sensory innervation, abundant microcirculation and great presence of groups of cell types. Aim The aim of this study is to describe the potential use of pulp post mortem alterations to estimate PMI, using a new methodology that will allow obtainment of pulp tissue to be used for histomorphological analysis. The current study will identify potential histological indicators in dental pulp tissue to estimate PMI in time intervals of 24 h, 1 month, 3 months and 6 months. Materials and method This study used 26 teeth from individuals with known PMI of 24 h, 1 month, 3 months or 6 months. All samples were manipulated with the new methodology (Carrasco, P. and Inostroza C. inventors; Universidad de los Andes, assignee. Forensic identification, post mortem interval estimation and cause of death determination by recovery of dental tissue. United State patent US 61/826,558 23.05.2013) to extract pulp tissue without the destruction of the tooth. The dental pulp tissues obtained were fixed in formalin for the subsequent generation of histological sections, stained with Hematoxylin Eosin and Masson's Trichrome. All sections were observed under an optical microscope using magnifications of 10× and 40×. Results The microscopic analysis of the samples showed a progressive transformation of the cellular components and fibers of dental pulp along PMI. These results allowed creating a chart of qualitative and quantitative parameters to be used on the estimation on PMI based on microscopic degradation of dental pulp. Conclusions The histological transformations of dental pulp as a function of time can be used as PMI indicators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-257
Number of pages7
JournalForensic Science International
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Dental pulp
  • Forensic dentistry
  • Postmortem interval


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