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Williams named chair of forensic dentists group

November 22, 1999

Dr. WilliamsBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




SMITHSBURG - As a forensic dentist, David Allen Williams makes dental comparisons that can help convict a criminal or identify a missing child.

Forensic dentists make comparisons between a deceased person's dental remains and dental records for identification.

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Or in sexual assault cases, bite impressions and a cast made of a person's teeth can be used to make a match to be used as evidence, said Williams, who has studied forensic dentistry and has a general dental practice with Allegheny Dental Care in Washington County.

Williams said some may consider analyzing human dental remains morbid, but for him it's a "way to do good for people."

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A conclusive identification of a cadaver can bring comfort and closure to a grieving family, he said.

In April, Williams was named chairman of the Maryland State Dental Association Forensic Dentistry Committee.

The 60-member committee is made up of dentists from across Maryland who have special training in forensic dentistry.

As chairman, he will be called on to organize the state's expert forensic dentists during large accidents and mass disasters. He also will oversee the members' training and head committee meetings.

Williams said he will work in the volunteer position to promote a professional relationship among members.

"I'm looking forward to the challenges chairing the committee will offer," said Williams, 48, who also serves as a Smithsburg town councilman.

He was named to the chairmanship position by Bill Schneider, president of the Maryland State Dental Association.

Williams was selected because of his years of experience and extensive training in forensic dentistry, Schneider said. Williams has outstanding organizational skills and can be counted on to calmly assess different situations, he said.

Like fingerprints, teeth have unique features and can be used for a reliable identification even when other means are unsuitable, Williams said.

Making a match using actual teeth or dental impressions can be done within a few hours. The technique is limited, however, because large databases of dental records do not exist as they do for fingerprints, he said.

"The good thing is that half of all people go to the dentist regularly. The bad thing is that the other half don't," Williams said.

Forensic dentistry was used last year at the Western Maryland Crime Lab to identify the remains of Clara Miller, whose decomposed body was found in Washington County, said Jeff Kercheval, a forensic scientist at the lab.

Kercheval said the science is accurate and invaluable in making identifications in lieu of fingerprinting and DNA testing.

Williams said his interest in forensic dentistry began after taking courses in the specialty in college and in the Army.

"I didn't do much with it until I went off active duty and started living here in Maryland," Williams said.

For the past several years, Williams has been a consultant for Maryland's chief medical examiner, the Western Maryland Crime Lab and the Franklin County and Adams County coroners' offices in Pennsylvania.

A Pennsylvania native, Williams attended Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., and Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia, receiving his doctorate in dental surgery in 1977.

He has served in the U.S. Army in various assignments as a dental officer, including stints in Stuttgart, Germany, San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Bragg, N.C.

In 1985, he was assigned to the Pentagon and he received his master's of science degree in management from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Williams, a colonel in the Army Reserve, left active duty in 1989 and moved to Smithsburg.

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