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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 95-97  

Lip prints: Role in forensic odontology

1 Department of Oral Pathology, Vivekanandha Dental College for Women, Tiruchengodu, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Madha Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Oral and maxillofacial pathology, SRM Kattankulathur Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission02-May-2013
Date of Decision04-May-2013
Date of Acceptance04-May-2013
Date of Web Publication13-Jun-2013

Correspondence Address:
Janardhanam Dineshshankar
Department of Oral Pathology, Vivekanandha Dental College for Women, Tiruchengodu, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-7406.113305

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Identification plays a major role in any crime investigation. The pattern of wrinkles on the lips has individual characteristics like fingerprints. Cheiloscopy is a forensic investigation technique that deals with identification of humans based on lips traces. In the past decades, lip-print studies attracted the attention of many scientists as a new tool for human identification in both civil and criminal issues. The lip crease pattern is on the vermilion border of the lip, which is quite mobile and lip prints may vary in appearance according to the pressure, direction and method used in making the print. It concludes by enlightening the readers with the fact that the possibilities to use the red part of lips to identify a human being are wider than it is commonly thought.

Keywords: Cheiloscopy, criminal issues, lip prints, lips traces

How to cite this article:
Dineshshankar J, Ganapathi N, Yoithapprabhunath TR, Maheswaran T, Kumar MS, Aravindhan R. Lip prints: Role in forensic odontology. J Pharm Bioall Sci 2013;5, Suppl S1:95-7

How to cite this URL:
Dineshshankar J, Ganapathi N, Yoithapprabhunath TR, Maheswaran T, Kumar MS, Aravindhan R. Lip prints: Role in forensic odontology. J Pharm Bioall Sci [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Nov 27];5, Suppl S1:95-7. Available from:

The challenges faced by man in early days to provide the identity of an individual. Identification of humans is prerequisite for personal, social and legal reason. The invention of finger print in the past century is the only reliable means of human identification. [1] In individuals, the finger print patterns are distinctive and permanent and hence considered as a tool for identification. [2] However, the awareness of the advanced techniques in crime detection has alarmed the criminals for taking sufficient precautions like the use of gloves. [3] In such circumstances, the identification of criminal using accurate methods like fingerprint analysis fail to establish a positive identity. Thus investigator can rely on adjuvant technique such as cheiloscopy as supportive evidence. [2]

The pattern of wrinkles on the lips has individual characteristics as fingerprints. The wrinkles and grooves on the labial mucosa (called sulci labiorum) form a characteristic pattern called lip prints, the study of which is referred to as Cheiloscopy. [4] It can be defined "as a method of identification of a person based on characteristic arrangements of lines appearing on the red part of lips or as a science dealing with lines appearing on red part of the lips". [2]

The lip prints being uniform throughout the life and characteristics of person can be used to verify the presence or absence of a person from the crime, provided there has been consumption of beverages, drinks, usage of cloth, tissues or napkin etc., at the crime scene. [5] However, studying in depth and establishing further facts and truth in lip prints will certainly help as useful evidence in forensic dentistry.

   History Top

The biological phenomenon of systems of furrows on the red part of human lips was first noted by anthropologists; R. Fischer was the first to describe it in 1902. [6] In 1932, one of the France's greatest criminologist Edmond Locard, recommended the use of lip print for identification of a person. [7] The idea of using lip print for identification was first suggested by Le Moyne Snyder in the year 1950. He introduced a case in which lip prints helped the crime scientist in an unusual way. [2] Dr. Martins Santos in 1960 proposed that these lip characteristics could be used in personal identification and devised a simple system for classifying lip prints. [2]

In 1967, Suzuki made a detail investigation of the measurement of lips, the use and the color of rouge and method of its extraction to obtain useful data for forensic application. [8] Later in 1971 Suzuki and Tsuchihashi, conducted a study and they devised their own classification. [2] Mc Donell in 1972 conducted a study on lip prints between two identical twins and reported that two identical twins seemed to be indistinguishable by every other means but they had different lip prints. [8]

Cottone in 1981, reported in his book Outline of Forensic Dentistry, that cheiloscopy is one of the special techniques used for personal identification. [8] In 1990, Kasprzak conducted research for the period of 5 years on 1500 persons to elaborate the practical use of lip prints. [6] It was during the period 2000-2012 that the study was carried out by several researchers from other countries and also in India. Different aspect of lip prints like stability, morphological patterns and sex determination among different groups of population. So all this research suggesting that the cheiloscopy can be used as an adjuvant technique in identification. [2]

   Classification Top

In 1967 Santos [9] was the first person to classify lip grooves. He divided them in to four types namely:

  1. Straight line
  2. Curved line
  3. Angled line
  4. Sine-shaped line
Suzuki and Tsuchihashi, in 1970, [10] devised a classification [Figure 1] method of lip prints, which follows:
Figure 1: Suzuki and Tsuchihashi classification

Click here to view

  1. Type I: A clear-cut groove running vertically across the lip.
  2. Type I': Partial-length groove of Type I.
  3. Type II: A Branched groove.
  4. Type III: An intersected groove.
  5. Type IV: A Reticular pattern
  6. Type V: Other patterns.
This classification is the most commonly used for recording the pattern on the lips.

Recording lip prints

Lip prints can be recorded in a number of ways.

  1. Photographing the suspect's lips. [11]
  2. On a non-porous flat surface such as a mirror they can be photographed, enlarged and overlay tracings made of the grooves. [12]
  3. Applying lipstick, lip rouge, or other suitable transfer mediums to the lips and then having the individual press his or her lips to a piece of paper or cellophane tape or similar surface. [11]
  4. Using a finger printer, preferably a roller finger printer. [13]
  5. By having the subject impress his or her lips (without lipstick or other recording medium) against a suitable surface and then processing these prints with either conventional finger print developing powder or with a magna brush and magnetic powder. [11]

   Processing and Developing of the Lip Prints Top

Provided the lip print is left on a suitable medium it can be developed using a number of different powders or cyanoacrylate and photographed. [14] The powders used are the same as for fingerprint development and the latent lip prints must be dry. [15]

Basic latent print dusting

For many crime scene investigators, more than half of the powder they use is regular, nonmagnetic powder. It can be used on windows, counter-tops, television sets and many other items moved or touched at residential burglary scenes. At commercial burglary scenes, it can be used on metal file cabinets, painted doors, broken glass and metal window frames. [13] Regular powders are available in colors such as black, silver/gray, Bichromatic and white. Proper color is chosen to provide sufficient contrast with the background surface if a clear photograph of the latent print has to be obtained. [13]

   Developing the Latent Lip Prints Top

To record lip prints using the magna brush method, the person should impress his or her lips against a glossy porous surface or a smooth nonporous surface. [16] These lip prints should then be subjected to a heat source until they solidify or should be allowed to air dry. These prints should then be powdered using a magna brush and magnetic powder. Conventional powder methods are usually unsuitable for powdering lip prints, inasmuch as the brush tends to smear or leave streak marks on the print. These streaks may then be interpreted as false characteristics by the comparer. These magnetic powders and magna brush are costly as compared to that of conventional powders. [13]

   Lip Print in Crime Detection Top

Just like finger print and teeth, lip print can be used as tool for identification. Lip prints are unique and do not change during life of a person. [16] Traces of lips should be looked for on cutlery and crockery items, on the window or door glass and on photograph or letters. Lip print may also appear on side by side with tooth marks on food products. In practice, lip prints have also seen in the windows, painting, doors, plastic bags and cigarette ends. [2] They can be most frequently seen during murders, rapes and burglaries. Traces with clear lines and individual elements enable individual identification of human beings. In a sense, lip prints have the same value as dactyloscopic traces. In the case of traces, in the shape of strains the identification examination terminates with group identification; in their character they are similar to other chemical and biological traces. [6]

   Lip Print in Court Top

On May 12, 1999, [1] an Illinois appellate court accepted, in people versus Davis, No 2-97-0725, the uncontroverted testimony of two state police expert (a finger print examiner and a questioned document examiner) that:

  1. Lip print identification is generally acceptable within the forensic science community as a means of positive identification because it appears in the literature.
  2. Lip print identification methodology, although seldom used is very similar to finger print comparison and is known and accepted form of scientific comparison.
  3. There is no dissent in the forensic science community with regards to either the methodology used or fact that lip prints provide a positive identification.
  4. The Federal bureau of investigation (FBI) and the Illinois state police consider that lip prints are unique like finger prints and are positive means of identification. [13]

   Conclusion Top

Along with other traditional method, cheiloscopy can also serve as a very important tool in identification of a person. The uniqueness of lip print needed to be conformed and accepted. A standard and uniform procedure has to be developed for the collection, development and recording of lip prints and the ensuring comparison.

   References Top

1.Sharma P, Saxena S, Rathod V. Cheiloscopy: The study of lip prints in sex identification. J Forensic Dent Sci 2009;1:24-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
  Medknow Journal  
2.Prabhu RV, Dinkar AD, Prabhu VD, Rao PK. Cheiloscopy: Revisited. J Forensic Dent Sci 2012;4:47-52.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
3.Reddy LV. Lip prints: An overview in forensic dentistry. J Adv Dent Res 2011;1:17-20.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Randhawa K, Narang RS, Arora PC. Study of the effect of age changes on lip print pattern and its reliability in sex determination. J Forensic Odontostomatol 2011;29:45-51.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Utsuno H, Kanoh T, Tadokoro O, Inoue K. Preliminary study of post mortem identification using lip prints. Forensic Sci Int 2005;149:129-32.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Kasprzak J. Possibilities of cheiloscopy. Forensic Sci Int 1990;46:145-51.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Thomas CJ, van Wyk CW. The palatal rugae in an identification. J Forensic Odontostomatol 1988;6:21-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Saraswathi TR, Mishra G, Ranganathan K. Study of lip prints. J Forensic Dent Sci 2009;1:28-31.  Back to cited text no. 8
  Medknow Journal  
9.Santos M. Queiloscopy: A supplementary stomotalogical means of identification. Int Microform J Legal Med 1967;1:2.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Suzuki K, Tsuchihashi Y. A new attempt of personal identification by means of lip print. Can Soc Forensic Sci 1971;4:154-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Williams TR. Lip prints: Another means of identification. J Forensic Indent 1991;41:190-4.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Ball J. The current status of lip prints and their use for identification. J Forensic Odontostomatol 2002;20:43-6.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Prabhu RV, Dinkar AD, Prabhu VD. Collection of lip prints as a forensic evidence at the crime scene: An insight. J Oral Health Res 2010;1:129-35.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Alvarez M, Miquel M, Castello A, Verdu FA. Long: Lasting lipsticks and latent prints. Forensic Sci Commun 2002;4:2.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Kasprzak J. Cheiloscopy. In: Siegal JA, Saukko PJ, Geoffrey C, Knupfer M, editors. Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences. Vol. 1. London; Academic Press; 2000. p. 358-61.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Sivapathasundaram B, Prakesh PA, Siva Kumar G. Lip prints (Cheiloscopy). Indian Dent Res 2001;12:234-7.  Back to cited text no. 16


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