This piece from the BBC furthers the concern among Europeans about the use of dental (and medical) information to age individuals in asylum or immigration cases. While there is a clear need to be sure of an individual’s age – especially if they are to be placed in children’s settings – its apparent that dental and medical methods just aren’t accurate enough.
Dental age’s look great when populations are being assessed, but for any given individual the standard deviations (or variance) of the estimates can be huge – over 5 years in some cases. So a 13 year old could be 18 and vice versa. There is also the ethical issue of the use of dental radiographs being taken for this purpose with no medical or dental justification.
And of course, if they are indeed under 18 or 16 – then where is the consent process? Ageing of deceased individuals for the purpose of identification is, of course, a very different matter, but we must exercise caution over using inaccurate and unethical techniques when psychosocial methods, combined with interviews with experienced social workers, are shown to be more accurate.
A definite need, again, to limit the scope of odontological practice.