Medicine and the Law

Use of extracted teeth in research

Loane Skene, Paul Nisselle



Excised body parts and tissue are usually disposed of as medical waste but may be retained for use in research, perhaps with a profitable outcome. For ethical and legal reasons the patient’s consent is generally required before excised bodily material can be used in research. Does this apply to extracted teeth also?

Article Extract

A researcher wanting to use enamel from extracted teeth in his work on dental enamel recently rang to ask me whether teeth extracted at a dental hospital during a therapeutic procedure may be later used in research without consent from the people from whom they came. The research ethics committee in his institution wanted advice on whether it is legally or ethically necessary to obtain consent, either at the time when the teeth are extracted or by re-contacting people afterwards and asking for their consent at that time.