Toothprinting Can Help Police Track Missing Children - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/12/03

Toothprinting Can Help Police Track Missing Children

A nurse told a Kindergartner "Can you open up for me real quick? Look at that"!

The youngsters at Reeves Elementary in Long Beach thought they were just getting another check-up. Five-year-old Joseph Loveall said "Because they want to check our teeth. They don't want us to have cavities".

What they didn't know was that the dental procedure was actually for their own safety. Dr. Andrea Elenbaas of Gulfport used a new technique to get Toothprints of children. Like fingerprints, the bite impressions are unique to each person, and can be used to identify and help track missing children.

Dr. Andrea Elenbaas said "It's a thermoplastic wafer that the child bites on and it gets their actual tooth imprints within the wafer. Also on the wafer, it picks up their saliva for DNA purposes and it has a scent tracking also. So if a dog was to smell it, they could pick up a child's scent".

Five-year-old Lucy Pruitt described the experience as "Sort of weird, like a big, hard pillow". Another boy said "It felt rubbery and tasted like a balloon".

The dental staff also rubbed cotton swabs on the children's cheeks to pick up more DNA samples. The dental samples are sealed in a plastic bag for parents to keep. Dr. Elenbaas hopes parents will never have to use the Toothprints, but they're there in case of an emergency.

Dr. Elenbaas said "Worst case scenario, if something happens, you have everything you need. Boom, it's right there in one place".

The samples should last for a number of years, as long as they remain sealed. Dr. Elenbass provided Toothprinting at Reeves and Quarles Elementary in Long Beach for free. She also offers it to her patients for free.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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