A Dental Halloween Story

    Posted October 17, 2013

    Since we are coming up on Halloween I thought I would share a dental story that is a little creepy, but suitable considering the time of year. I have changed the names of the individuals for privacy reasons.

    Last year while visiting my Eugene dental office I was interrupted by the receptionist while chatting with one of my associate dentist. Her face was bright red and eyes were wide open and her mouth was fumbling as she blurted out, “Dr. Bratland. There is a man on the phone who claims that he is a police detective in California. He said that he is investigating a murder and he wants to speak to the owner.”

    I was caught a little off guard. I am a pretty stand up citizen and I haven’t had a traffic ticket in years so I don’t speak to police officers very often, especially about a murder victim.

    “This is Dr. Bratland,” I said cautiously.
    “Dr. Bratland. This is detective John Smith with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. We believe that one of your patients could have been murdered. The body was badly decomposed and wild animals have disturbed the remains so identifying the body is tough. We are investigating the death as a homicide unless we find evidence to the contrary. The forensic team is investigating cause of death and I have a few questions for you.”
    “OK”
    “The forensics team pulled a dental implant out the deceased body today. There was a serial number on it and a manufacturer insignia. We called the manufacturer and gave them the serial number. They said that the implant was sold to you.”
    “OK”
    “If I give you a serial number can you tell me the name of the patient who received it?”
    “I think so, but it’s going to take me a little while to track it down. Probably within the hour.”

    I wrote down the serial number the officer provided and sat down with the associate dentist and instructed him to pull a report of all the patients who received implants from us. We went through the list and found the matching serial number. I had an eerie feeling looking at the patient’s chart and realizing she was deceased.

    The associate began to tell me stories about the patient and how she came into the clinic with a large sum of cash and wanted a full mouth restoration. She bragged about being a renegade farmer and selling her harvested crops in California. The picture slowly came to light. Her body was found on a remote country road in California. The vehicle she was driving had caught on fire. Wild animals had disturbed her body and possibly ran off with clothing and identification.

    I haven’t followed the story and I don’t know with complete certainty that the patient was murdered, but the fact is that she isn’t alive anymore. I would have never thought I would help identify a body as a dentist, but there is a first time for everything. Hopefully it’s the last.