Dentist offers clinic to help ID children
A local dentist is offering a low-cost clinic for children that has a high-tech twist.
For $5, Dr. Daniel Bates will make one of the most fool-proof forms of identification for children - an impression of their teeth.
Often used by forensic experts as conclusive proof of identity, teeth impressions help law enforcement identify missing children, said Bates, who has practiced family dentistry in Havre since 2000.
"You're inundated daily with strange things happening. You always hear about kids being abducted or getting lost," he said, adding that although "we're relatively isolated up here," it doesn't mean something couldn't happen.
In addition to making a permanent imprint of the teeth, the mold also captures the child's scent and DNA samples from the saliva, he said.
"In a worst-case scenario, the parents would have their child's dental records, scent and DNA" all in one package, he said.
Havre Police Chief Kevin Olson said dental impressions can be beneficial to law enforcement.
"For many years police have advocated parents fingerprinting their children or taking a DNA sample," he said.
He noted that DNA can be extracted from saliva, and that scent could be useful to canine units that are trained in search and rescue.
"In these types of instances, we'll use any and all (of the evidence) at our disposal. The more the better," he said.
Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said he believes taking a child's teeth prints is a good idea.
"It is one way of positively identifying a person," he said. "I think it would be an excellent thing for both parents and law enforcement."
Szudera, who is also the county coroner, said people should be aware that tragedy can occur anywhere.
"People perceive that type of thing doesn't happen in this community, but it is possible," he said.
Bates said he first saw the impressions in a catalog for dental tools and accessories. He was impressed with the idea and soon took impressions of his own children.
No other dentists in Havre offer the service, though several said today they may in the near future.
"It's a relatively new thing," Bates said.
The impression is made from a soft plastic mold that hardens once the dental impression is taken. The process takes about five minutes, Bates said.
"All they have to do is bite on it," he said. "It's a real quick procedure."
The mold is placed in a marked plastic bag, which should be accompanied by a recent photograph of the child, Bates said. Parents should then take the impression home and find a safe spot for it, he said.
"They need to make sure it's someplace dark," he said, adding that the shelf life of an impression is about five years.
Bates recommended that children have an impression taken when they're about 5 years of age, again at 10, and in their early teens.
Bates has planned a clinic at his office Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. Anyone interested should call his office prior to that date so Bates can ensure he has enough molds on hand. The phone number is 262-9389.