Tooth impressions offered as ID aid

Arizona Republic: Scottsdale Republic

By Maggie Galehouse

Scottsdale – One a recent afternoon, 5-year-old Garrett Marquis clambered happily into the dentist’s chair at Dr. John Badolato’s office.

Badolato warmed a small, thermoplastic, U-shaped wafer in hot water, and Garrett dutifully bit down on it. In less than a minute, the mold of Garrett’s teeth was complete.

Someday, it could save Garrett’s life.

Badolato makes an impression of children’s teeth with Toothprints, a product developed by Kerr Corp. For parents searching for a child who has been lost or abducted, tooth prints are a reliable means of identification.

“It’s a quick and easy thing,” said Badolato, 33, who does not charge for the procedure. “I probably take about five tooth prints a week, and we just started offering them 30 days ago.”

The impression records individual tooth characteristics and the relationship between the upper and lower jaw. It also captures a DNA sample and a saliva scent.

Children don’t mind it because it’s quick and it doesn’t hurt.

It was no big deal, Garrett said.

Garrett’s mother, Nancy, said it never occurred to her to get an impression of her son’s teeth until Badolato told her about the procedure.

“I always thought about fingerprints, but I never knew about dental impressions until a few weeks ago,” the Scottsdale resident said. “It’s something you don’t really thingk about until you need to.”

Children should have new prints taken every year until they get all their adult teeth, Badolato said. The prints, which are sealed in a plastic bag, go home with the parents. A pediatric dentist in Boston created a quick, low-cost method for creating tooth prints about 15 years ago, said Mike Etheridge, vice president of marketing for California-based Kerr Corp.

Kerr developed the product and began marketing it to dental professionals in July 2003. “Today, there are probably 5,000 dentists across the country using Toothprints,” Etheridge said.

Despite interest from retailers, the product is not available to the public, Etheridge added. Kerr sells only to dental professionals.

Badolato said Toothprints is a great complement to the Amber Alert program, an emergency response system used by police to notify the public of kidnapped children through radio, TV and the Internet.