I was at the dentist the other day undergoing a root canal. These things seem to take forever so I was daydreaming about dentistry and what I knew about it. Being a bit on the morbid side, the one thing that came to mind was that dental records are often used to identify a body that has either been burned so badly it is Burned Beyond Recognition or been dead so long it is – I guess Dead Beyond Recognition.
As I lay there idly looking at my dentist's nose, I wondered if he ever had to use dental records to identify anybody. Since my mouth was filled with what felt like a soldering iron and a couple of crescent wrenches I couldn’t ask him, but I tried to picture what it must be like. You never see the actual identification on TV or in the movies. Just a cop or coroner or lawyer informing the audience that the victim had to be identified from their teeth because “that’s all that was left worth identifying.”
"Dr. Freely, I'm Detective Wilson. I have some x-rays here I'd like to see if the belong to a patient of yours."
"Certainly, Detective. What is the patient's name?"
"A Mr. Lazlo. First name Victor."
"Oh, yes. I remember Mr. Lazlo. Terrible overbite. Still owes me three hundred dollars."
"Well, I wouldn't count on collecting that any time soon, Doctor."
"Why is that?"
"He was Burned Beyond Recognition."
"These x-rays are terrible. Look at all those black marks. He can't have had that many cavities."
"That may be soot..."
My reverie was interrupted by my dentist's command to rinse and spit. As he gently removed the bib from beneath my chin I had to discretely inquire.
"Hey, doc, ever had to identify a body from the teeth?"
"Not really. There are experts that do that. I did provide dental records once, though, to identfy some bite marks in an assault and battery case."
"Don't you mean 'assault and bitery'?"
For some reason he rushed me out of the office after that.