Tracking tooth imprints can improve children's safety

Winter Park dentist Dr. Ramzi Matar demonstrates the Toothprints thermoplastic wafer, which can be used by police dogs to track missing children and also to check dental health.

Winter Park dentist Dr. Ramzi Matar demonstrates the Toothprints thermoplastic wafer, which can be used by police dogs to track missing children and also to check dental health.

Brittni Larson

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A few minutes and a little wishbone-shaped piece of wax could make all the difference for a parent looking for their missing child.

Winter Park Family Dentistry is offering the tool, called Toothprints, for free during an event hosted at their office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 30. Toothprints are thermoplastic wafers that are used to take an imprint of a child’s teeth. Every person’s teeth are unique, and Toothprints are a useful way to identify a person, and store a child’s smell for scent dogs to use in case they go missing. In most cases, though, it’s simply another way to mark your child’s growth, said Dr. Ramzi Matar, the Winter Park dentist organizing the event.

“It could mark the kids’ development, like a keepsake for parents, to see how their teeth change. And the other reason is for identification, and any kind of legal issues, they can use it for storing DNA, finding missing children, so it’s just one tool from a forensic point of view,” Matar said. “Anywhere a fingerprint can be used, a Toothprint can be used.”

For more information about the event, which will offer free Toothprints to all children attending, call Winter Park Family Dentistry at 407-644-0177 or email wpkdental@gmail.com. To learn more about their practice, visit www.winterparkfamilydental.com

The process is simple, and can be done on any child old enough to follow instructions and bite down, best for kids about ages 5-10. The wax-like wafer is warmed in hot water and placed in your child’s mouth where they’ll just bite down for about a minute while the dentist blows in compressed air to cool off the Toothprint. Then they’ll place it in a bag for you to take home.

Kimberly Malatesta, an Orlando mom and elementary school teacher, got Toothprints for her three children already.

“My interest stems not out of the worst case scenario, but more of like an insurance policy. If I had the ability to have this for my kids to keep them safe or to help locate them or to help, or God forbid, to identify them, why wouldn’t I have it, especially when he’s offering it to the community. Why wouldn’t you want every part of your arsenal that you could as a parent to keep your kid safe?” she said.

Matar said that he’s done about 500 Toothprints since he found out about the tool five years ago, and if parents can’t make it to the free event it just takes a few minutes and only costs $10 to do in the office.

Malatesta said that Matar made it fun for her children, too. For her 5-year-old, he discussed how teeth are like butterflies’ wings or snowflakes, each one unique and special. He taught her 10-year-old a few facts about DNA and forensic science. He also likes to count the teeth imprints with younger kids and talk about the tooth fairy. Matar said he wants kids to have fun with the experience and learn a little bit about science.

“It’s like an adventure,” he said.

“He’s gets excited about the science of it, so that got my kids excited about the science of it and he really made it educational for them,” Malatesta said. “That is up his alley, that is what he does best, inspiring science in the next generation is a goal of his.”