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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/165

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THE TEETH AS A MEANS OF IDENTIFICATION.

THE VALUE OF TEETH AS A MEANS OF IDENTIFICATION.
By ALTON HOWARD THOMPSON, D.D.S.,

PROFESSOR OF COMPARATIVE ODONTOGRAPHY, KANSAS CITY DENTAL COLLEGE.

I HAVE been reminded by the articles in the Popular Science Monthly, of the neglect of the teeth as a means of identification, which to me, as a practical dentist, has always seemed very remarkable. No system of identification that I am aware of has ever mentioned these valuable organs for this purpose, notwithstanding the facts that they are so varied in features and are so durable. They are the most indestructible of all animal tissues and their value in this respect ought to be appreciated, for after death, when all the other tissues have disappeared, the teeth remain and maintain the features and peculiarities that they presented in life. It is a source of wonder to the dental profession that the signs furnished by the teeth have been so persistently overlooked in systems of identification, especially by life-insurance companies. The number of signs furnished by the teeth, both of natural features and of artificial operations upon them, is so varied and extensive that they present an amount of valuable data that ought not to be ignored.

A simple system of record of the natural peculiarities of the teeth and of the artificial operations upon them could be devised which in the hands of a competent person, who would need to be an expert dentist, of course, would furnish reliable and less perishable evidence than the other external signs of the body. Every dentist keeps a record of all the operations he performs for every patient, upon an individual chart or page in a special diagram, for his own convenience and protection. By means of these charts, dentists have, in several instances, assisted materially in the identification of the bodies of persons for whom they have operated, after catastrophes, notably the charity bazaar fire in Paris. A similar chart could be incorporated in the examination records of life insurance companies, for instance, on which the dental peculiarities could be recorded in a manner which could be easily read by another expert. Even if some teeth were lost or altered in the course of years, many signs would yet remain on the surviving teeth, for the original form of a tooth would be the same and an artificial operation could not be obliterated. Thus the size and width of the arch; the size, shape and color of the teeth; teeth missing