Dental records? Database?

This isn’t a profound question, like some that are thrown out there, but I’m curious anyway.

How is it that say, I get murdered in this big metropolis, and there’s nothing left of my body but a few bones, not dragged off by the dogs, and a few teeth left. Yet, somehow they identify me by my dental records? So are all our dental records sent into some collective database? Or are all of these instances we hear about, from detectives going to all the dentists’ offices and checking them that way?

If there is a database of all our dental records, shouldn’t I have a say in that?

I’ll hazard a few guesses.

I don’t think so. Mind you, my knowledge about this comes from watching the Discovery Channel and what-not, but try this scenario:

Some girl disappears from home. A few months pass. Nobody’s seen her, and her parents are raising hell. 6 months (or 2 years) after the disappearance, some hunter finds a skeleton in the woods. The forensic scientists determine that it is a female skeleton, likely 18-25 years old. The police say, “Ah-hah!” and compare the teeth on the skeleton with the dental records obtained from the missing girl’s dentist.

My guess is that the police will pull dental records if they can match the skeleton to a known missing person. Otherwise, they aren’t going to run all over town trying to match the teeth to every file in every dentist’s office.

Just a guess.

No, there is no central database for dental records. However, when a person is missing, the police will get the dental records from his or her dentist, and these are kept on file to check against any unidentified bodies that may be found. I don’t know about other states, but Washington State requires us to submit the dental records if the person hasn’t been located within 30 days of entering them into the computer as a missing person.