Monday, January 10, 2005

‘Toothprints’ may make finding lost children easier

Toothprints’ may make finding lost children easier
By Kristina Davis, Tribune
If a child is missing, the key to finding her could lie in a plastic wafer that the child bit into years earlier.
Toothprints, a dental impression process made for child identification purposes, records the child’s unique tooth characteristics, which could help find and identify a child when tragedy strikes.

"The top concern for every parent out there is the fear that their child may come up missing at some time," said Holly Hosac, a Mesa police crime prevention specialist. "This does help us, but hopefully it’s something that’s more of a safety precaution that will never have to be used."

The thermal plastic wafers also hold the child’s DNA from his or her saliva, making it easier to use DNA evidence in identifications. The scent of the saliva could help scent dogs search for missing children.

Police say it is much more difficult when there are no dental records or fingerprints to go by.

"Children are taking better care of their teeth, and not every child has dental records with the advances in dentistry," Hosac said. "Some kids don’t go to the dentist at all."

Toothprints was developed by a pediatric dentist in Boston in 1999 after he was inspired about 20 years earlier by a speech given by John Walsh, host of "America’s Most Wanted."

Walsh thanked the group of dentists for their work in dental forensics, which eventually identified the body of Walsh’s son, who was abducted and murdered, according to an American Dental Association article.

Today, more than 5,000 dentists across the country use Toothprints, including Mesa dentist Dr. Sandra Reyes, who provides them to her patients as a free service. Dentists recommend a new impression be taken every year as the child’s mouth changes.

Reyes will team up with the Mesa Police Department on Tuesday to obtain Toothprints and fingerprints from children to kick off the department’s child identification program for 2005.

The arc-shaped wafer will be sealed inside a plastic bag and given to the child’s parent or guardian for safekeeping.

For more information, call Mesa police at (480) 644-2033.

Tooth identification
What: Toothprints and fingerprinting for child identification
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Mesa Police Department’s community room, 120 N. Robson
Cost: Free

A great service!

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