Valuable ID all on one plate

Sept. 1, 2004
The quick approach of red flashing lights signal a driver to pull over. Slowly veering off the road, the police car follows closely until the car stops.

by Karen Kaiser

The quick approach of red flashing lights signal a driver to pull over. Slowly veering off the road, the police car follows closely until the car stops. Realizing the speeding infraction, and awaiting the officer's approach as he radios the license plate number, one reluctantly rolls down the window. The officer poses the imminent question: "May I see your registration and ID?" Fumbling through a wallet or purse and frantically unpacking the jammed glove compartment yields no registration or driver's license. At this point, one recognizes that he or she failed to transfer the license from the last wallet. Finally, the officer listens to an apologetic confession that the driver is without credentials and ID.

If faced with a similar lack of identification regarding a missing child, and a reliable means of identification would be of great assistance, turn to the dental hygiene profession. Kerr Dental Company, known for belleGlass™ to bonding agents, began offering an ID system in February 2004 called Toothprints®. Toothprints is a wafer that softens, records, and firmly sets once an impression of a bite relationship is registered into the thermoplastic material.

Toothprints is a wafer of information. A Toothprints is a plastic arch-shaped impression plate that is positioned between the child's upper teeth and rests on the lower arch during imprinting.

The wafer is prepared for registration by dropping the disc into heated water, which makes it pliable. Hot tap water will not work. The water must reach 170 degrees to thoroughly soften the wafer. Microwave tap water for two to three minutes on high to reach proper heat. A standard hot-water dental bath also works well.

Allow the wafer to settle in the water for 15 to 30 seconds to make sure it is pliant through the entire plate. Remove the Toothprints from the immersion and gently test with fingers so the plate is not excessively hot before insertion.

Have the child bite firmly into the warmed plastic for 30 seconds so the bite marks are preserved in the wafer. When removed from the mouth, the wafer will quickly harden as it cools to room temperature.

Each Toothprints comes with a protective, sealable plastic storage bag where the date of the bite and name of the child can be written. When the imprint is taken, slip the fresh saliva-coated bite wafer into the bag to cool. Afterward, zip close the bag and give the Toothprints to the parents. Tell them to store the disc in a safe, dark location to avoid turning the wafer into a cultured science fair project.

Initially, as a baseline, all your child patients would benefit from the information provided by a Toothprints. Subsequently, a Toothprints can be taken at different tooth eruption stages to record maturing bites. It will need to be repeated as the child's mouth changes. Record bites as early as three years of age when all primary teeth have erupted, again after first molars and canines have come in, and at age 12 when second molars are present. It's a good idea to update annually.

Remember that each child's bite is exclusively theirs and this uniqueness will serve as a mode of matchless identification. When a child records a bite into the softened disc, individual characteristics, such as bite relationships or fillings, make indentations into the plastic wafer.

However, with the use of tooth-preserving measures such as fluorides, many children's dentitions have little or no distinguishing markers. Fortunately with the Toothprints, not only are the current positions and teeth features registered, but also significant strands of salivary proteins, which contain necessary identifying genetic

DNA are deposited onto the Toothprints disc. Saliva is significant since the bite impression will hold an individual "scent" from the spit, enough for a well-trained police dog to track the trail of a missing child. Toothprints, quite simply, is a form of identification that contains dental DNA characteristics.

Reach out to the community and plan a team-building experience that revolves around Toothprints. Toothprints come in a kit of 25 impression wafers with storage bags and brochures. When planning this event, one will need a crock pot full of water to keep the discs at the proper temperature. Have permission slips on clipboards for guardians to sign that give your office the green light to perform the procedure.

During our event, we collaborated with the local law enforcement agency and put our booth next to the traditional police fingerprinting at a school carnival. The police welcomed the unique role a Toothprints can play in helping track, locate, or positively identify a child. We also found that parents appreciate the opportunity to collect additional identification on their child through Toothprints. Our office raised awareness, performed a community service, and enjoyed the event immensely.

As a dental professional, offering the Toothprints service imparts peace of mind for parents by providing a unique, non-threatening method to obtain and keep critical information about a child. Fabricating a Toothprints bite plate chairside or taking the service on the road is nearly effortless. Demonstrate good will towards your young patients and the community by participating in events where children and parents alike can learn about preserving a child's characteristics for times of crisis. Proper identity, especially for children, is a necessity, and Toothprints is a great precautionary vehicle.

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and presents seminars. She can be contacted at hygiene [email protected].

The author did not receive compensation from Kerr for this discussion about the product. For more information about Toothprints, ask your local Kerr dealer, call (800) KERR-123, or visit the Web site at