Adelaide Dental School
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD, but is currently at capacity - email supervisor to discuss availability.
Dr Denice Higgins
University of Adelaide, Adelaide
Histology, Evolutionary Biology, Criminal Law
BDS GDipForOdont PhD.
Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD)
Forensic odontology unit University of Adelaide
Dr Higgins has been a practicing dentist for around 30 years and has been working at Strathalbyn Dental Care since 2006.She is a registered specialist forensic odontologist and provides professional services to Australian policing and coronial agencies.
She has a Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology and PhD in Forensic Biology.
My research interests are in the areas of forensic science, human identification, craniofacial biology and forensic odontology. I have a Bachelor Degree in Dentistry, a Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology and a Doctorate in Forensic Biology. I am currently the Director of the Forensic Odontology Unit at the University of Adelaide and undertake forensic odontology casework for SAPOL and the SA Coroner. I also undertake research in the fields of forensic biology and forensic odontology and Coordinate a Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology Program and the Honours in Dental Science Program. I have publish a number of peer reviewed scientific papers and book chapter and have presented a international conferences.
Research Project 1
Title: Ultra violet fluorescence and radiopacity of various tooth coloured dental materials - implications for detection in the process of dental identification of deceased remains
Project description: The advent of improved dental materials and techniques is leading to the provision of dental restorations that are increasingly difficult to detect. When examining a deceased individual who is decomposed and/or incinerated this is even more difficult. To assist in detection forensic odontologist frequently use UV light and radiographs, however different materials react differently and may still not be easy to detect. This project aims to examine a range of materials available on the market and compare the ease of identification using these techniques and to explore variables which may influence their reaction to irradiation such as shade and thickness of restoration.
Projects available for:l Honours / Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology
Location: Helen Mayo Building
Research project start: Semester 2
Special requirements: Nil
Research Project 2
Title: Radiographic anatomical study of dental and skeletal features present on dental radiographs to assist human identification
Project description: This study aims to determine the rate of occurrence of specific dental and oral anatomical features visible on dental radiographs. Dental feature comparison and interpretation of concordance between individuals has long been recognised as a scientifically valid method of human identification. Dental identification is performed by comparison of antemortem and postmortem dental data in instances of mass casualty (Disaster Victim Identification), missing persons cases and for those individuals who cannot be identified by more traditional methods, such as visual identification. The increase in preventative dentistry has led to a decrease in restorations which are traditionally utilised in comparative matching for forensic identification of victims. Fortunately, forensic odontologists also compare morphological anatomical features to bring a result. In cases where the crowns of the teeth have been lost due to severe incineration of victims in bushfires, automobile accidents and some dwelling fires, this method of identification using radiographs becomes particularly relevant. Morphological features include the position, shape, spacing and angulation of roots, multiple roots, anomalies such as unusually shaped sinuses, enlarged foramen, unusual bone thickening and bony pathology such as cysts.
Projects available for:l Honours / Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology
Location: Helen Mayo Building
Research project start: Semester 2
Special requirements: Nil
Date Position Institution name 2019 Senior Lecturer University of Adelaide 2018 Program coordinator Bachelor of Science in Dentistry (Honours) University of Adelaide 2016 Program Coordinator Graduate Diploma of Forensic Odontology University of Adelaide 2016 Director Forensic Odontology Unit University of Adelaide, Adelaide 2015 - 2018 Post Doctoral Researcher University of Adelaide 2007 Specialist forensic odontologist University of Adelaide, Adelaide
Awards and Achievements
Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount 2018 Fellowship Fellow Pierre Fauchard Academy Pierre Fauchard Academy Australia — 2018 Fellowship Fellow International College of Dentists International College of Dentists Australia — 2015 Award Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal Australian Federal Police Australia —
Date Institution name Country Title 2014 University of Adelaide Australia PhD 2006 University of Adelaide Australia G Dip For Odont 1985 University of Adelaide Australia BDS
Year Citation 2021 Bonsu, D. O. M., Higgins, D., Henry, J., & Austin, J. J. (2021). Evaluation of the efficiency of Isohelix™ and Rayon swabs for recovery of DNA from metal surfaces. Forensic Science Medicine and Pathology, 17(2), 199-207.
2021 Berketa, J., & Higgins, D. (2021). The use of gelling agents to preserve burnt teeth within the dental alveoli for dental human identification – a study utilising sheep mandibles. Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology, 17(1), 72-77.
2021 McKinnon, M., & Higgins, D. (2021). Comparison of bone demineralisation procedures for DNA recovery from burned remains. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 51, 1-6.
2021 Mckinnon, M., Henneberg, M., Simpson, E., & Higgins, D. (2021). Effects of thermal insult on bone tissue as observed by micro computed tomography. Forensic Imaging, 24, 200437.
2021 Chiam, S. L., Higgins, D., Colyvas, K., Page, M., & Taylor, J. (2021). Interpretation, confidence and application of the standardised terms: Identified, Probable, Possible, Exclude and Insufficient in forensic odontology identification. Science and Justice.
2021 Mckinnon, M., Henneberg, M., & Higgins, D. (2021). A review of the current understanding of burned bone as a source of DNA for human identification. Science and Justice.
2021 Storer, C. A., Berketa, J., & Higgins, D. (2021). Dental identification practices across Australia. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 14 pages.
2020 Bonsu, D., Higgins, D., & Austin, J. (2020). Forensic touch DNA recovery from metal surfaces - a review. Science and Justice, 60(3), 206-215.
DOI Scopus6 WoS4
2020 Storer, C., Berketa, J., & Higgins, D. (2020). Is human identification by dental comparison a scientifically valid process?. Science and Justice, 60(5), 403-405.
2020 Mckinnon, M., Henneberg, M., Simpson, E., & Higgins, D. (2020). A comparison of crystal structure in fresh, burned and archaic bone – Implications for forensic sampling. Forensic Science International, 313, 9 pages.
DOI Scopus1 WoS1
2020 Leow, S., & Higgins, D. (2020). Can dental charting from a post-mortem computed tomographical scan produce a confident forensic identification without traditional physical and radiographic examination?. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 11 pages.
2019 Young, J. M., Higgins, D., & Austin, J. J. (2019). Hybridization enrichment to improve forensic mitochondrial DNA analysis of highly degraded human remains. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7, 450-1-450-10.
2019 Chiam, S., Page, M., Higgins, D., & Taylor, J. (2019). Validity of forensic odontology identification by comparison of conventional dental radiographs: A scoping review. Science and Justice, 59(1), 93-101.
DOI Scopus4 WoS3 Europe PMC1
2019 Stow, L., & Higgins, D. (2019). The importance of increasing the forensic relevance of oral health records for improved human identification outcomes. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(1), 49-56.
DOI Scopus3 WoS1
2018 Stow, L., & Higgins, D. (2018). Development and evaluation of online education to increase the forensic relevance of oral health records. Australian Dental Journal, 63(1), 81-93.
DOI Scopus1 WoS1 Europe PMC1
2018 Goodwin, C., Higgins, D., Tobe, S., Austin, J., Wotherspoon, A., Gahan, M., & McNevin, D. (2018). Singleplex quantitative real-time PCR for the assessment of human mitochondrial DNA quantity and quality. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, 14(1), 70-75.
DOI Scopus4 WoS5 Europe PMC2
2018 Bardan, F., Higgins, D., & Austin, J. (2018). A mini-multiplex SNaPshot assay for the triage of degraded human DNA. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 34, 62-70.
DOI Scopus3 WoS3 Europe PMC1
2017 Berketa, J., & Higgins, D. (2017). Stabilisation of dental structures of severely incinerated victims at disaster scenes to facilitate human identification. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 51, 45-49.
DOI Scopus2 WoS2
2015 Higgins, D., Rohrlach, A., Kaidonis, J., Townsend, G., & Austin, J. (2015). Differential nuclear and mitochondrial DNA preservation in post-mortem teeth with implications for forensic and ancient DNA studies. PLoS One, 10(5), e0126935-1-e0126935-17.
DOI Scopus42 WoS36 Europe PMC17
2014 Higgins, D., Kaidonis, J., Townsend, G., & Austin, J. (2014). Evaluation of carrier RNA and low volume demineralization for recovery of nuclear DNA from human teeth. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, 10(1), 56-61.
DOI Scopus4 WoS4
2013 Higgins, D., Kaidonis, J., Townsend, G., Hughes, T., & Austin, J. (2013). Targeted sampling of cementum for recovery of nuclear DNA from human teeth and the impact of common decontamination measures. Investigative Genetics, 4(1), 1-8.
DOI Scopus16 Europe PMC4
2013 Higgins, D., & Austin, J. (2013). Teeth as a source of DNA for forensic identification of human remains: A Review. Science & Justice, 53(4), 433-441.
DOI Scopus85 WoS69 Europe PMC25
2011 Higgins, D., Kaidonis, J., Austin, J., Townsend, G., James, H., & Hughes, T. (2011). Dentine and cementum as sources of nuclear DNA for use in human identification. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 43(4), 287-295.
DOI Scopus14 WoS12
2010 Berketa, J., Hirsch, R., Higgins, D., & James, H. (2010). Radiographic recognition of dental implants as an aid to identifying the deceased. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 55(1), 66-70.
DOI Scopus19 WoS15 Europe PMC8
2009 Higgins, D., Hughes, T., James, H., & Townsend, G. (2009). Strong genetic influence on hypocone expression of permanent maxillary molars in South Australian twins. Dental Anthropology, 22(1), 1-7. 2009 Ashar, A., James, H., Higgins, D., Kaidonis, J., & Anderson, R. (2009). The effect of motor vehicle airbag deployment on tooth surfaces. The Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, 27(2), 50-55. 2006 Higgins, D., & James, H. (2006). Classifications used by Australian forensic odontologists in identification reports. The Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, 24(2), 32-35.
Scopus11 Europe PMC3
— Young, J. M., Higgins, D., & Austin, J. J. (n.d.). Soil DNA: advances in DNA technology offer a powerful new tool for forensic science. Geological Society, London, Special Publications.
Year Citation 2016 James, H., & Higgins, D. (2016). Forensic odontology management. In J. A. Taylor, & J. A. Kieser (Eds.), Forensic Odontology: Principles and Practice (pp. 402-418). United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons.
2016 Higgins, D., & James, H. (2016). Odontology opinions. In J. Taylor, & J. Kieser (Eds.), Forensic Odontology: Principles and Practice (1 ed., pp. 377-401). UK: John Wiley and Sons.
2016 Higgins, D., & Austin, J. (2016). Nucleic acid sample preparation from teeth/dental remains. In M. Micic (Ed.), Sample Preparation Techniques for Soil, Plant, and Animal Samples (pp. 183-193). USA: Springer.
2015 James, H., Berketa, J., Higgins, D., Lake, A., & Cirillo, G. (2015). Disaster Victim Management: Role of Forensic Odontology. In Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine: Second Edition (pp. 288-304). Elsevier.
Year Citation — Austin, J., Higgins, D., & Young, J. (n.d.). Young_Higgins_Austin_FASTAfiles.fasta.
I currently teach Forensic Odontology to Graduate Diploma and undergraduate students and law and ethics as they pertain to Dentistry to undergraduate students. I also supervise multiple postgraduate research students
- Research Methods and Ethics (ODONT_6017OL)
- Principles and Methods of Forensic Odontology (ODONT_6012OL)
- Integrated Forensic Science (ODONT_6018OL)
- Forensic Odontology Casework (ODONT_6008A/B and 6108A/B) includes clinical instruction (our clinic is largely based in the mortuary) and supervision as well as tutorial and laboratory components.
- Forensic Odontology Research (ODONT_6008A/B and 6108A)
- Honours Research Methods and Ethics Parts 1 & 2 (DENT 4300A/B)
- Honours Dental Science Parts 1 & 2 (DENT 4200A/B)
Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2021 Principal Supervisor The application of 3-Dimensional digital dental images to forensic odontology identification casework Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Harry Thomas George Perkins 2020 Principal Supervisor THE INFLUENCE OF CONTEXT EFFECT ON DECISION MAKING IN FORENSIC ODONTOLOGY IDENTIFICATION Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Sher-Lin Chiam 2020 Principal Supervisor The radiographic and ultraviolet fluoroscopic characteristics of dental materials in a forensic odontological context Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Thomas Corfield 2020 Principal Supervisor Assessing the variation in transcription of antemortem dental records and devising a computer aided solution to increase objectivity and standardise transcription Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Catherine Alexandra Storer 2019 Co-Supervisor Forensic DNA Recovery and Amplification from Metal and Metal-coated Surfaces Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Dan Osei Mensah Bonsu 2019 Principal Supervisor Validation study in forensic odontology - Accuracy of radiographic matching when used in conjunction with superimposition Master of Philosophy (Dentistry) Master Part Time Qi Jun Zhou 2017 Principal Supervisor Retrieving viable DNA samples from deferentially preserved remains for the purpose of identification Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Meghan Raechel McKinnon
Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2016 - 2017 Co-Supervisor Increasing the forensic relevance of oral health records - development and evaluation of online education for the dental professional Master of Philosophy (Dentistry) Master Part Time Dr Lauren Stow 2015 - 2019 Co-Supervisor New Forensic DNA Profiling Techniques for Human Identification Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Felicia Bardan
Other Supervision Activities
Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name 2019 - ongoing Principal Supervisor The prevalence of radiographically visible pulp calcifications – implications for forensic identification The University of Adelaide Bachelor of Science in Dentistry Honours Honours Part Time Gi 2018 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Significance of anodontia and hypodontia in forensic human identification. The University of Adelaide Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology Other Part Time Ioana Corfield 2018 - ongoing External Supervisor THE INFLUENCE OF CONTEXT EFFECT ON DECISION MAKING IN FORENSIC ODONTOLOGY IDENTIFICATION The University of Newcastle Australia PhD Doctorate Part Time Sherlin Chiam 2018 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Comparison of Dental charting from a post mortem computed tomographical scan (PMCT) with dental charting obtained via traditional, accepted methods: Implications for forensic human identification The University of Adelaide Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology Other Full Time Selina Leow 2018 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Digital superimposition of 3-Dimensional dental scans for forensic purposes The University of Adelaide Graduate Diploma in Forensic odontology Other Part Time Harry Perkins 2010 - 2011 Co-Supervisor Validation of a laser scanner methodology The University of Adelaide Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology Other Full Time Astiti Handayani
Date Role Committee Institution Country 2018 - ongoing Board Member The University of Adelaide Dental School Program Board The University of Adelaide Australia 2018 - ongoing Member The University of Adelaide Dental School Research Committee The University of Adelaide Australia 2018 - ongoing Member Australia and New Zealand Forensic Science Society South Australian Branch Australia and New Zealand Forensic Science Society Australia
Date Role Membership Country 2015 - ongoing Member American Society of Forensic Odontology — 2015 - ongoing Member International Society of Forensic Genetics Australia 2006 - ongoing Representative Australia and New Zealand Forensic Science Society Australia 2006 - ongoing Vice-President Australian Society of Forensic Odontology Australia 1986 - ongoing Member Australian Dental Association Australia
Date Institution Department Organisation Type Country 2015 - ongoing National Institute of Forensic sciences — Scientific research Australia
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