Web site reveals what your mouth says about you

Dec. 11, 2009
Interactive program explores forensics, saliva, and bioengineering through dentistry.

BALTIMORE, Maryland--Did you know that a person can be identified from the DNA in saliva left behind on a postage stamp?

Also, the average person creates enough saliva each day to fill a soft-drink bottle, and teeth can survive fires reaching 2012 degrees Fahrenheit?

Your Spitting Image, a new educational Web site from the National Museum of Dentistry, reveals what your mouth says about you. Find out how forensic dentists use dental records and DNA analysis to solve real missing person cases, discover the telling secrets revealed by saliva, and find out how the mouth is a window to health for the human body.

This interactive web site features an in-depth exploration of forensics, saliva, and bioengineering as it relates to science, dentistry, and oral health. Key scientific topics include DNA, genetics, the mouth/body connection and stem cells.

The site can be used by parents and middle- and high-school teachers for scientific exploration in the classroom or at home. The lessons can also be used in conjunction with a field trip to see the Your Spitting Image companion exhibit at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore or at one of the venues across the country hosting the traveling version of the exhibit (currently on view at the Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing, Mich.).

The Web site features three sections that explore the science of dentistry and oral health.

In Forensics: Solving Mysteries teaches how forensic dentists help law enforcement identify missing persons using X-rays, bitemarks, and DNA testing. Find out how saliva protects our teeth and how your mouth is connected to the health of the rest of your body in Saliva: A Remarkable Fluid. Also, Bioengineering: Making a New You explores how stem cells and genes are being used to grow replacement teeth and cure disease.

Interactive activities include:

* An exploration into how a few drops of saliva can be used to determine genetic make-up, diagnose infections, and identify illegal drug use
*A step-by-step illustration of how forensic dentists can extract DNA from a tooth to learn the identify an unknown victim
* An animated cartoon that shows how brushing, flossing, and rinsing lead to a healthy mouth
* A visual timeline of the various ways mankind has sought to replace missing teeth for thousands of years, from the ancient Egyptians to the future of tooth replacement.

Teacher guides included on the site provide easy-to-understand, illustrated, age-appropriate lessons for middle- and high school-students that can be used in the classroom. Materials are designed to meet the National Science Education Standards developed by the National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment and the National Research Council.

The Web site also provides detailed information about the Your Spitting Image traveling exhibit and how it can be brought to communities nationwide.

The Your Spitting Image Web site was made possible by a grant from the Patterson Dental Foundation.

For more information, call (410) 706-0600 or visit National Museum of Dentistry.

To read more about the National Museum of Dentistry, go to National Museum of Dentistry.

To comment on this topic, go to PennWell Dental Community site.