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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-24

Role of lip prints as a novel tool in personal identification: An overview

1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Shree Bankey Bihari Dental College and Research Centre, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Yashwantrao Chavan Dental College, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Prosthodontics, Shree Bankey Bihari Dental College and Research Centre, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
4 Department of Oral Pathology, DJ Dental College, Modinagar, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication22-Aug-2013

Correspondence Address:
Puneet Kumar
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Shree Bankey Bihari Dental College and Research Centre, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-433X.116837

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Establishing a person's identity is a very important process in civil and criminal cases. In the field of forensic sciences, the lip prints have been proven to be an imperative tool in identifying a person positively. Today, in India, as well as worldwide, crimes of diverse character are on the rise. Both criminals and knowledgeable elite of the public are making use of stylish methodological measures while committing crimes to put forensic scientist, police, and the public off the scene. Hence, the role of crime scene detectives has become more challenging than ever in this civilized modern world. Dental, fingerprint, and DNA comparisons are probably the most common techniques, allowing fast and secure identification processes. However, since they cannot always be used, sometimes it is necessary to apply different and less-known techniques. Nevertheless, in certain circumstances related to the scene of the crime or due to the lack of experienced personnel, these techniques might be unavailable; therefore, there is still an increasing need for reliable alternative methods of establishing identity.

Keywords: Cheiloscopy, forensic odontology, lip anatomy, lip prints

How to cite this article:
Kumar P, Dupare R, Kumar P, Gupta V. Role of lip prints as a novel tool in personal identification: An overview. SRM J Res Dent Sci 2013;4:21-4

How to cite this URL:
Kumar P, Dupare R, Kumar P, Gupta V. Role of lip prints as a novel tool in personal identification: An overview. SRM J Res Dent Sci [serial online] 2013 [cited 2023 May 28];4:21-4. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Establishing a person's individuality can be a very difficult procedure. Oral-dental aids, fingerprint, and DNA comparisons are considered as the most common techniques used in this perspective, and it usually permits fast and secure identification processes. Though, they cannot always be used because of expense, availability, and other reasons, sometimes it is necessary to apply different and less known techniques. Investigators often gain information and evidence through the use of odontology, anthropometry, fingerprints, and other techniques that help determine, for example, gender, approximate age, and height. Today, however, investigators may also rely on lip prints to identify possible suspects or to support evidence gained in specific investigations. [1],[2],[3],[4] 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. [5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11] Fischer was the first to describe it in 1902. [12] Use of lip prints in personal identification and criminal investigation was first recommended in France by Locard. [13] In 1950, Synder also suggested the idea of using lip prints for identification. [14] Lip prints are considered unique to an individual and analogous to fingerprints. [15] It has been verified that lip prints recover after undergoing alterations such as minor trauma, inflammation, and herpes. However, major trauma to the lips may lead to scarring and pathosis, and surgical treatment rendered to correct the pathosis may affect the size and shape, thereby, altering the pattern and morphology of the grooves. [10] A lip print found at the scene of a crime can be the basis for conclusions with regards to the character of the event, the number of people involved, sexes, cosmetics used, habits, occupational traits, and the pathological changes of the lips themselves. [5] Lip prints, as one of the dermatoglyphics, have been used as genetic markers in many congenital and clinical diseases. [14]

  Historical Perspectives 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. [12] Use of lip prints in personal identification and criminalization was first recommended in France by Edmond Locard. [16] In 1950, Synder was the first person who suggested the idea of using lip print for identification. He had conducted an investigation of traffic accident and proved that the characteristics of lips formed by lip grooves are as individually distinctive as the ridge characteristics of fingerprints. [17] Until 1950, however, anthropology merely mentioned the existence of the furrows without suggesting a practical use for the phenomenon. Since 1950, the Japanese have carried out extensive research in the matter. In the period 1968-1971, two Japanese scientists, Y. Tsuchihashi and T. Suzuki, [17] examined 1364 persons at the Department of Forensic Odontology at Tokyo University. Based on this research, it was established that the arrangement of lines on the red part of human lips is individual and unique for each human being. This statement led to the conclusion that there is a possibility of using the arrangement of furrows (on a trace, in a linear form) on lips for the identification of a person. In further research, the Japanese scientists examined the principles of the heredity of furrows on the red part of lips. In Poland, the interest in lip prints started in 1966 when a lip print was revealed on window glass at the scene of a burglary. [18] Research was carried out, and its results were comparable to those achieved in Japan and Hungary. The research was only of preliminary character and, as yet, have not allowed practical application of results. A project aiming at that objective was launched in 1982 in the Forensic Institute of Warsaw University Criminal Law Department in cooperation with the former Forensic Institute of Militia in Warsaw. The material for study was collected in the former Military Training Center at Minsk Mazowiecki. Lip prints were collected from 1500 persons (including 107 women) from various locations around the country. The age of the volunteers varied from 5 to 60 years. Altogether, more than 7000 traces of the red part of the lips were examined. As a result of the examination, the individuality of lines in the red part of lips and their unchangeability within the limits practicable for identification was proven. Since 1985, in Poland, the methods of finding and recovery of lip traces, recovering comparative material, and the techniques employed to carry out that expertise have been introduced into casework of the Fingerprint Department of the Central Forensic Laboratory of Police in Warsaw. During the years 1985-1997, cheiloscopic techniques have been used in 85 cases, including 65 burglary cases, 15 cases of homicide, and five cases of assault. In 34 cases, the identification was positive, indicating that cheiloscopic techniques were equal in value to other types of forensic evidence. It has also been included in evidence for presentation in court.

  Cheiloscopy Top

Cheiloscopy, the study of lip prints, is a forensic investigation technique that deals with the identification of humans based on lips traces. [16],[18],[19] Lip prints have to be obtained within 24 hours of the time of death to prevent erroneous data that would result from post mortem alterations of lip. [20] Lip print pattern depends on whether mouth is opened or closed. In closed-mouth position, lip exhibits well-defined grooves, whereas, in open position, the groves are relatively ill defined and difficult to interpret. [21]

The basics of cheiloscopy, however, are similar to that of dactyloscopy, i.e. lip prints are consistent, permanent, and permit establishing a classification. The significance of cheiloscopy is frequently linked to the fact that lip prints are distinctive to one person, even in monozygotic twins. Like fingerprints and palatal rugae, lip grooves are permanent and remain steady throughout life. The lips are covered with wrinkles and grooves that forms a characteristic pattern-the lip print. Searching for lip prints in a crime scene investigation can be very important in establishing the true nature of the facts. Lip prints can link a subject to a specific location if found on clothes or other objects, such as glasses, cups, or even cigarette butts. However, visible lip prints are important and those that are not visible are also important. The invisible lip prints are called latent lip prints. Various materials used for developing artificial lip prints forensic investigations related to medico-legal issues are aluminum powder, silver metallic powder, plumb carbonate powder, fat black aniline dyer, lysochrome dyes, and fluorescent dyes.

The vermillion border of the lips has minor salivary and sebaceous glands, which, together with the moisturizing done by the tongue, leads to the possibility of existence of latent lip prints. So, when searching for lip prints, one must always consider the presence of latent lip prints. Domiaty et al. studied in depth the lip prints of Saudi individuals with the aim to explore the relative importance of the lip prints in investigations related to the medico-legal issues in Saudi population. [22] Red or brown lip sticks, white copy papers, and tissue papers were utilized to make the impressions of the lips. Every lip print was divided into six topographic areas, examined by magnifying hand lenses, then photographed and wired to the computer to be examined by the picture manager and fax viewer programs. Throughout the study, no identically similar lip-print pattern appeared in the two subjects. Few prints (9.63% of both sexes) showed one type of grooves in all areas of the lips (12.59% of females and 5.87% of males), but two or more types of grooves were commonly seen in different areas of the print. A total of 72.67% of prints showed the same groove pattern in the upper-right and upper-left areas (78.89% of females and 64.79% of males), while 75.36% of the prints showed the same groove pattern in the lower-right and lower-left areas (74.81% of females and 76.06% of males). They also recommended establishing a database for all individuals in a certain locality, hoping to be a reference in civil lawsuits and criminal cases.

Suzuki and Tsuchihashi (1970) proposed a classification of lip prints, also known as Tsuchihashis classification; these are most widely used classification in literature [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], and [Figure 6]. [23] Lip prints are very useful in forensic investigation and personal identification. They are considered to be most important forms of transfer evidence and are analogous to fingerprints. Lip prints are usually left at crime scenes and can provide a direct link to the suspect. In recent years, lipsticks have been developed that do not leave any visible trace after contact with surfaces such as glass, clothing, cutlery, or cigarette butts. These lip prints are characterized by their permanence and are, therefore, referred to as "persistent" lip prints. Although invisible, these prints can be lifted using materials such as aluminum powder and magnetic powder. [24],[25],[26]
Figure 1: Type I, vertical grooves

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Figure 2: Type I', partial length across the lip grooves of type I

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Figure 3: Type II, branched grooves

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Figure 4: Type III, intersecting grooves

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Figure 5: Type IV, reticular grooves

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Figure 6: Type V, other patterns

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It is not easy to position the lip prints in the general system of traces. The unique properties of the lip print help in identifying a human being spatially when it is revealed as a stratified surface trace with visible elements of lines. In the case where the lines are not clear, individual identification of a human being based on this trace is extremely difficult unless the trace contains more individual characteristics (e.g., scars), and the identification often ends with group identification. In these cases, it is possible to examine the substance that constitutes the trace (e.g. saliva) as a biological trace and to determine the blood group in the ABO system. Also, the use of lipsticks is not indispensable for leaving lip prints. The edges of the lips have sebaceous glands, with sweat glands in between. Thus, secretions of oil and moisture from these enable development of "latent" lip prints, analogous to latent fingerprints. Even though the lines and furrows are present both in the upper and lower lip, from one corner of the mouth to the other corner, only the middle portion of the lip is taken into account, since this portion is always visible in any traces. [11],[25],[27],[28],[29],[30],[31],[32],[33],[34]

  Conclusion Top

Lip print analysis is a process that can provides both qualitative and quantitative results; however, more researches should be done to make its application widely accepted in the forensic field. Cheiloscopy deals with the examination of system of furrows on the red part of human lips and is an important tool in forensic science. The investigation of lip prints (both visible and latent) can thus be fundamental in resolving a criminal act. Traditional lipstick produces a print that is easily identifiable. However, lip prints made without lipstick are invisible, requiring reagents that are more sensitive than conventional materials to locate and develop the prints. Research suggests the conclusive evidence that lip prints are suitable for the successful comparison, analysis, and identification of a person to a crime. In fact, there have been convictions of perpetrators who were positively identified via the analysis of their known lip prints to those found at the crime scene. There is a need to develop one cohesive cheiloscopy system that is practicable in forensic odontology.

  References Top

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34.Kasprzak J. Cheiloscopy. In: Siegel JA, Saukko PJ, Knupfer GC, editors. Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences. vol. 1. London: Academic Press; 2000. pp. 358-61.  Back to cited text no. 34


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]

This article has been cited by
1 Cheiloscopy: A Vital Tool in Forensic Investigation for Personal Identification in Living and Dead Individuals
Ambrish Kaushal,Mamta Pal
International Journal of Forensic Odontology. 2020; 5(2): 71
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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