New museum exhibit uses dentistry to solve forensic mysteries

"Forensics: Solving Mysteries" is a multi-faceted exhibition that offers visitors the opportunity to have a hands-on experience as a member of a disaster recovery team.

BALTIMORE, Maryland--The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry has announced the opening of "Forensics: Solving Mysteries."

The exhibition is the second phase of Your Spitting Image, a three-phase exhibition designed to increase the public's understanding of the advances in oral health research resulting from the Human Genome Project and the influence it will have on oral health care delivery and on overall health.

"This exhibition brings to life what so many of us are seeing on television as forensic science has become key in solving criminal and missing persons cases," stated Dr. Scott Swank, NMD Curator. "We wanted the exhibit to be as authentic as possible and create a real-life situation. To that end, we were fortunate to have permission to use an actual case solved through dental identification for the missing person module of the exhibit," continued Swank.

"Forensics: Solving Mysteries" is a multi-faceted exhibition that gives a true picture of a complicated process that is often over simplified for the public watching TV in their living rooms. The exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to have a hands-on experience as a member of a disaster recovery team.

The various team member roles provide opportunities to see how dentistry is used as participants step into real life situations during the identification process of victims of a mass disaster. Visitors to the exhibition are guided through a mock disaster and victim identification scenario where traditional radiographic and DNA comparisons are used for identification purposes.

Phase one of Your Spitting Image, Saliva: A Remarkable Fluid, opened to the public in March, 2005. Visitors are taken on an interactive odyssey through their mouths, introducing them to that oft-ignored, but essential liquid that protects their teeth, aids in digestion and improves their sense of taste through the use of experimental and interactive computer activities.

Visitors learn what saliva is made of, how it works in their bodies and what happens to their oral health and overall health if their salivary glands ever become impaired.

The exhibit will be on display in the Saccente Gallery on the museum's second floor and is included in the regular price of admission. 

Upon completion, Your Spitting Image will be comprised of three phases and will enable visitors to understand the connections between the Human Genome Project and dentistry in three topical areas: saliva, bioengineering and forensics.

Contributing members of the project development team include Christian Stohler, DDS, dean of the University of Maryland Dental School; Harold Slavkin, DDS, dean of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry; and Dr. Bruce Baum, Chief of the Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch Gene Transfer Section at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Sponsorship for "Forensics: Solving Mysteries" has generously been provided by the Patterson Dental Foundation and Drs. Constance and Leslie Seldin.

For more information about the museum call (410) 706-8477 or visit

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