900K NIJ grant aims to improve forensic dental age estimates of youth

Texas State University

Nicholas Herrmann, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University, has received a National Institute of Justice award to improve the accuracy of age estimates for unidentified remains of children and adolescents.

The project titled, “Investigation of subadult dental age-at-death estimation using transitional analysis and machine learning methods,” was funded for approximately $900,000. Joseph Hefner, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University, will serve as co-principal investigator with Herrmann.

“The key is that the research is focused on refining age estimates for unknown children and adolescents,” said Herrmann. “This is especially important within a forensic context to ensure that appropriate age ranges are reported for unidentified cases.”

The project will focus on the investigation of dental root and crown development to estimate age in children and adolescents using transition analysis. Herrmann will also explore dental development within machine learning methods to evaluate performance. The research goal is to provide forensic practitioners with an accurate age estimation method based on a large, demographically diverse, modern sample of children and adolescents that captures the variation in dental development. Current standard methodology based on tooth mineralization often underestimates age by one to more than two years as age increases.

The project will use dental development data collected on radiographs from living children and adolescents from different populations in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and other locations around the world.

Texas State will carry out the project through collaboration with Michigan State University, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and Triservice Orthodontic Residency Program, 59th Dental Group).

About Texas State University

Founded in 1899, Texas State University is among the largest universities in Texas with an enrollment of 38,694 students on campuses in San Marcos and Round Rock. Texas State’s 189,000-plus alumni are a powerful force in serving the economic workforce needs of Texas and throughout the world. Designated an Emerging Research University by the State of Texas, Texas State is classified under “Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity,” the second-highest designation for research institutions under the Carnegie classification system.