Indian Journal of Dental Sciences

: 2017  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 176--180

Cheiloscopy: A tool for antemortem identification

Bhagwat Swaroop Sharma1, Vineeta Gupta2, Hitesh Vij3, Ettishree Sharma2, Nutan Tyagi2, Shreya Singh4,  
1 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Universal College of Dental Surgery, Bhairahawa, Nepal
2 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Institute of Dental Studies and Technologies, Modinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Diagnostic Sciences and Oral Biology, Division of Oral Pathology, King Khalid University, Abha, Saudi Arabia
4 Department of Oral Pathology, Uttrakhand Dental College, Dehradun, Uttrakhand, India

Correspondence Address:
Ettishree Sharma
Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Institute of Dental Studies and Technologies, Kadrabad, Modinagar - 201 201, Uttar Pradesh


Aims: The present study was conducted with the aim to explore the authenticity and evidentiary value of imprints of the lips for any peculiar pattern regarding specific gender so that it could be used as a reliable tool in the identification of an individual at the crime scene. Materials and Methods: This study comprised 500 (248 females and 252 males) randomly selected dental students with age ranging from 18 to 30 years. Lip prints were recorded with the help of a cellophane tape strip and analyzed according to Suzuki and Tsuchihashi classification. Results: The most predominant pattern in the entire study population was found to be Type I in females and Type III in males with highly significant statistical values. It was also demonstrated that no two lip prints were found to match each other which proves that every individual has unique lip prints. This uniqueness can further help in personal identification. Conclusion: Cheiloscopy or lip print analysis can be used to identify an individual and place him/her at the crime scene. It is an important antemortem tool which may aid in justice to the victim.

How to cite this article:
Sharma BS, Gupta V, Vij H, Sharma E, Tyagi N, Singh S. Cheiloscopy: A tool for antemortem identification.Indian J Dent Sci 2017;9:176-180

How to cite this URL:
Sharma BS, Gupta V, Vij H, Sharma E, Tyagi N, Singh S. Cheiloscopy: A tool for antemortem identification. Indian J Dent Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Oct 18 ];9:176-180
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Full Text


The Federation Dentaire Internationale has defined forensic odontology as “that branch of dentistry which, in the interest of justice, deals with the proper evaluation and presentation of dental findings.”[1] By reviewing literature, it can be specified that forensic dentistry works with the two objectives: (1) postmortem identification of an individual and (2) identification of the culprit from evidences that may be left behind, for example, bite marks and lip prints.[2] The study of lip prints is known as cheiloscopy and is derived from the Greek word cheilos meaning “lips” and e skopein meaning “to see.”[3]

The wrinkles and grooves present on the lip were designated as “sulci labiorum rubrorum” by Suzuki and Tsuchihashi in 1970.[4] Lip prints are seen to remain same for an individual throughout his/her life unless scaring occurs due to a pathosis, a trauma or due to any surgical procedure. The scarring may lead to change in the lip print pattern, their size, shape, etc.[5] By analyzing the imprints of lips left at the crime scene and their comparison with the suspects, investigating personnel can place the culprit at the crime scene and also can give a positive match.[6] Lip prints can be attained from the clothing, glasses, cigarettes, cups, windows, and doors at the crime site. This method basically provides a strong and definite link between an individual and a specific location and helps in placing the suspect at the crime scene.[7] The prime objective of the present study was to determine if any two lip prints were the same and to determine the authenticity and evidentiary value of imprints of lips for any peculiar pattern regarding specific gender so that the identification of a suspect/suspects at crime scene could be made possible. Furthermore, an attempt was made to see the correlation between the lip prints and blood group of a person.

 Materials and Methods

The study was conducted among 500 randomly selected students (undergraduates and postgraduates) of Institute of Dental Studies and Technologies, Kadrabad, Modinagar (Uttar Pradesh) after obtaining clearance from the Institutional Ethical Committee. All the details about the purpose of the study were briefed to the participants and informed consent was taken.

Inclusion criterion

(a) The participants having full dentition were included in the study. Eruption of third molar was ignored in categorizing a person with full dentition. (b) Consenting students of IDST Modinagar were included in the study.

Exclusion criterion

(a) Participants with malformations, deformity, inflammation, trauma and surgical scars (e.g., operation for cleft palate), and other abnormalities of the lips. (b) Gross deformity of lips such as cleft lip, ulcers, traumatic injuries on lips, angular cheilitis, lip pits, cheilitis glandularis, and cheilitis granulomatosa. (c) The participants allergic to lipstick and cellophane tape.

Study materials

Lipstick: Revlon amazing moisturizing lipstick. 264 redCellophane tape: Apex packs 365, ISO: 2000 certified co.White bond paper: Royal executive bond paper A4Cotton swabsScissors: Stainless steel scissorsBrushHand mirrorAdobe Photoshop 0.7 software [Figure 1].{Figure 1}


After properly cleaning the lips with cotton swabs, lipstick was applied to the lower lip with a brush using a single stroke [Figure 2]. Over the lipstick, the glued portion of cellophane tape strip was placed, and the participant was asked to press/her lips together gently [Figure 3]. The cellophane tape strip was removed and stuck to a white bond paper (8.5 cm × 6.0 cm) for further analysis [Figure 4]. Blood group was noted from the college identity card. Each lip print was assigned a serial number and then studied by the help of Adobe Photoshop 0.7 software [Figure 5]. Only the most legible image of the lower lip was considered. It was divided into three parts, and the center most part was analyzed. In case where there were two dominant patterns, the most dominant one was considered for the study purpose. Analysis was done based on the classification system given by Suzuki and Tsuchihashi in 1970.[4]{Figure 2}{Figure 3}{Figure 4}{Figure 5}

Type I: Complete vertical grooves that run across the entire lipType I': Partial vertical. Similar to Type I but do not cover the entire lipType II: BranchingType III: IntersectingType IV: ReticularType V: Undetermined/other. Here, the grooves do not fall into any of above type and cannot be differentiated morphologically.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was done using using statistical package for social science (SPSS). Ver.16.0 U.S.A. I.B.M. The frequency of each type of lip print was tabulated, and the percentage of each type was calculatedChi-square was applied to test whether there was any association between the type of lip print and blood group of the participantsAnalysis of all the lip prints was done by two observers independently, and evaluation of data was done to eliminate any subjective bias.


The present study comprised 500 participants, of which 248 were females with a mean age of 22.34 (standard deviation [SD] ± 12.30) years and 252 were males with a mean age of 22.14 (SD ± 2.57) years.

The images were superimposed on each other, and no two lip prints were found to match which prove that every individual has unique lip prints. The most predominant pattern in the entire study population was found to be Type I (120 [24%]), followed by Type III (113 [22.60%]), Type IV (84 [16.80%]), Type I' (78 [15.60%]), Type II (60 [12%]), and Type V (45 [9%]).

On analysis, it was revealed that Type I lip print was more common among female participants (35.88%) and Type III lip print pattern was more common amid male participants (34.92%) [Table 1]. The statistical analysis between lip prints and gender was done using Chi-square tests, and the value was found to be highly significant (P = 0.000) [Figure 1].{Table 1}

Out of 258 female participants, 199 (80.2%) were correctly identified as females by their lip prints and 59 (23.4%) females were erroneously recognized as males. Out of 242 males, 193 (76.6%) were correctly identified as males and 49 (19.8%) males were misinterpreted as female. The values were found highly significant (P = 0.000) [Table 2]. The accuracy of cheiloscopy in gender determination was calculated to be 78.44% [Figure 2].{Table 2}

On further comparing of lip print types with blood group of the participants, we observed that most common blood group in the entire study population was B+ (215 [43%]) and AB was rarest (1 [0.2%]). Statistical analysis between lip print pattern and blood group was done using Chi-square test, and the difference was found to be statistically nonsignificant (P = 0.874).


With the increase in crime rates, it has become crucial for law personnel to relate the evidences attained at the crime site to the perpetrator.[8] Identification of an individual, dead or alive is a challenging task.[9] Every individual has some unique traits in him/her, which can help in their identification.[10] Various methodologies are being used now-a-days such as fingerprints, DNA analysis, dental profiling, and rugoscopy. The consistent search for more reliable technologies in forensics still continues.[11] The distinctive pattern of grooves and wrinkles in lips has made cheiloscopy a reliable procedure for antemortem personal identification.[12]

Lip prints can be recognized as early as the 6th week of the fetal stage and remain permanent; resisting environment changes, pathologies, minor traumas, and inflammation.[13] The continuous moistening from the oral cavity and the secretion of sebum from the sebaceous glands leads to latent lip prints formation.[14] These can be perceived as discernible prints on photographs, glass, papers, window, cutlery, cigarette, skin, etc.[15] A number of chemicals and dyes, for example, Sudan black, lysochrome, carbonate powder, and Nile red are used to highlight these imprints so that they can be easily visualized and identified.[16] In 1975, Suzuki and Tsuchihashi reported two cases, in which the culprits were identified by their lip prints. In the first case, the mystery was resolved by analyzing the lip prints present on an envelope, whereas in other case, lip prints were detected on undergarments using color test and ultraviolet rays.[17] The FBI in 1987 had successfully identified a male bank robber, who left his lip prints on the glass door of the bank he was robbing.[18] All these cases recommend the use of lip prints as an antemortem identification tool.

Many researchers have put forth different classification systems for categorizing the lip prints into groups, and we followed the most popular one proposed by Suzuki and Tsuchihashi in our study.[4] Different authors have used different methods of recording the lip prints and analyzing them, the procedure done by Sivapathasundharam et al.[5] where they considered the middle third portion of the lower lip as the area to be analyzed has been followed by us. Numerous studies on cheiloscopy have been conducted throughout the country and overseas on their local populations and all these illustrate varied results. The results of our study were in agreement with the studies done by Randhawa et al.,[19] Koneru et al.,[20] Singh et al.,[21] Sharma et al.,[22] Bajpai et al.,[23] Nagalaxmi et al.,[24] Kaul et al.,[25] and Ramakrishnan et al.[26] Accordingly, Type I lip prints (vertical type) are most commonly seen in the studied population, whereas the results of Chaitanya et al.,[27] Verghese et al.,[28] Gondivkar et al.,[9] and Narang et al.[29] did not match our findings. Karim and Gupta [30] showed contradictory results as they demonstrated Type II pattern to be common in males and Type III pattern in females. Rest all the studies showed similar results to our study, i.e., Type III and Type IV lip prints commonly seen in males and Type I, I', and II commonly seen among females. This proves that determination of gender using cheiloscopy has a high degree of accuracy and reproducibility (our accuracy for gender estimation was 78.44%). Narang et al.[29] also found a gender determination accuracy of 86.4%. Thus, it can be recommended that lip prints can act not only as a means of identifying individuals but also they have a high rate of accuracy in gender estimation. However, owing to its soft tissue structure, there are some drawbacks too. Lip prints are more prone to injury due to which the clarity of the prints may change. The clarity may also depending on the pressure applied to the recording material, depending on the surface on which the print was recorded, etc. Lip prints being soft tissue and change after death though may not be very valuable in postmortem cases, for example, mass disasters where the body is mutilated or decomposed, but they can be very valuable in antemortem cases where both the victims/evidence and the suspected perpetrators can be examined soon after the incident. Where the lip prints can be lifted from either body surface, cloths, or surrounding inanimate objects and can be matched to the victim or suspect and can lead to a conviction.


Forensic dentistry plays a very significant role in establishing the identity of an individual. There are many scientific means of antemortem identification such as dental records, fingerprints, iris scan, and DNA analysis. One of the most interesting antemortem techniques is cheiloscopy or the study of lip prints. To link somebody with someone or to a specific place, cheiloscopy represents one of the most reliable ways. We observed a great accuracy using lip prints for determination of gender, but there was no correlation found between lip prints and blood groups. By analyzing the available literature, we can conclude that cheiloscopy may be a reliable parameter of gender determination. A broad database of lip prints of individuals from different geographical areas should be recorded and evaluated as we observed that lip prints are seen to vary in different populations in different geographical areas.

With the ever-increasing globalization of the populations, the need of the hour is a vast and detailed database documenting not only individual details but also the characteristics commonly seen in the population indigenous to a particular area.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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