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A Dentist and a Detective Chip in to Develop a Micro Tooth I.d.

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Dentist Jeffrey Maxwell, 35, and Detective Jim Conover, 34, have devised a different kind of “chipped” tooth. Their innovation, a 2.5 millimeter plastic disc, bonded to any back molar, can contain 1,000 characters that may be read with an ordinary 15-20 power magnifying glass. The Micro I.D. can carry the owner’s name, address and phone number, next of kin and medical data about organ donations, allergies and prescriptions. Maxwell and Con-over, both of Pekin, Ill., hope that their disc will revolutionize the field of forensic identification, filling the present gap in identifying missing children, emergency room patients and disaster victims.

Desperation was their motivation. Conover, a Pekin police detective for 11 years, has come across the remains of many child victims who are never identified. Maxwell, a forensic dental consultant, has often been stumped by the fact that “dentistry has improved so much that many children no longer require tooth restorations. So their dental charts are often identical to each other, and one of every two people never goes to a dentist.”

The secret behind the I.D. chip, Maxwell says, is “the new plastics that have come out of NASA research that make it possible to rebuild the teeth.” (The bonding agent was developed by NASA to attach tiles to the space shuttle.) The tooth I.D., which has been affixed to more than 5,000 patients in all 50 states, has the support of the American Dental Association, which editorialized, “Everybody wins.”

Adds Maxwell, “The main reason I did this is because I’m a father. My son at age 5 looks nothing like he did at age 2. Had he disappeared then, there’s no way he could have been identified.”