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Inventor’s Tiny IDs Implanted in Mouth : The Honest Tooth: Oral ‘Dog Tags’

From United Press International

Someday soon, we could all become human homing pigeons, toting around in our mouths a sliver-thin plastic micro disc fastened to a back molar containing one’s name and serial number.

Lose your identification? Just open wide. Inscribed on a piece of film no bigger than the small letter “o” that you’ve just read, the vital data will be there, right down to your age, telephone number and whether you’re allergic to penicillin.

Like an American Express Card, you won’t leave home without it.

Dentists have already implanted the oral dog tags into about 5,000 mouths nationwide since the device went on the market in January.

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It’s called a “micro informational disc,” and was invented by a dentist-detective duo in Peoria, Ill., who came upon the idea while collaborating on a case involving a 12-year-old who had been missing since 1972.

Inventor-dentist Jeffrey Maxwell said the disc, which he vows can’t fall off since it’s bonded to a “stress-free area” on the second to rear upper molar on the right side, will help immeasurably in assisting medical and police authorities to identify missing children, or people who have been killed or badly injured.

“It will help police to return a missing child to their homes,” Maxwell said. “And it’ll be very useful in helping to identify an elderly person who may have Alzheimer’s disease and can’t remember his name or address, or for a mental patient.”

The person whose identity cannot be established will be brought to a hospital emergency room. There, technicians will quickly chip off the disc with a sharp instrument and put the device under a microscope.

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Robert Gerber, a dentist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a major proponent of the “Micro ID,” as it’s commonly called, said the personalized discs he has put into a dozen of his own patients include the person’s name, address, birth date, phone number, whether he’s a donor, medical alert information such as whether that person is taking insulin, and whom to contact in case of an emergency.

Gerber says the implant is completely painless, takes less the 15 minutes to install and costs about the same as a filling. He charges $15 for the part and $35 labor.

The Los Angeles dentist, who claimed he is one of only a handful in the California dental community using the device, is so enthusiastic about the invention that he is mailing information about the disc to emergency room personnel throughout Southern California as well as to his patients.

“It’s really a great thing,” he said. “Suppose you were out jogging and had a heart attack, or got hit by a car and were unconscious, and maybe had diabetes. You’d be in trouble.

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“Or, if you’re an old person who passes out. And of course, it can be used in the more tragic things like identifying the body of a kidnap victim or the bodies of people killed in a plane crash, as long as the bodies are not badly burned.”

Gerber’s wife, Robin, was among the first of his patients to get her own micro disc.

“I thought it was a great idea because I remembered a cousin of mine in New Jersey who was jogging and then went to a bus stop and had a heart attack,” she said. “And it took days before anyone knew what happened to him.”

Gary Gresham, marketing coordinator at Micro ID, the disc manufacturer in Peoria, said he has sold about 7,500 of the devices so far--about half being sold to dentists and the other half to consumers.

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