Objectives: To determine the usefulness of dental records for victim identification following the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster in Thailand, and to evaluate the dental identification system in Thailand, the homeland of a large number of the victims.
Study design: A descriptive study conducted at the Thai Tsunami Repatriation Centre in Phangnga Province one year after the tsunami hit Thailand on the 26th December 2004.
Methods: The dental records of 3750 dead bodies and 3547 missing persons in the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification (TTVI) database, updated on 12th December 2005, were analysed.
Results: The identification rate of missing persons with dental records was significantly higher than that of those without (P<0.01). Most victims identified by dental records were returned home within the first four months after the disaster. Dental records were the primary identifier in 46.2% of those identified. However, among the Thai citizens reported missing, only 2.0% used dental identification, 18.1% had dental charts and 0.8% had dental X-rays. In addition, only 7.4% of Thai dental records could be used for dental identification and one-third of Thai victims remained the majority of those unidentified.
Conclusions: Based on this study, the usefulness of dental records for victim identification in a disaster was confirmed. The dental identification system for nationals of Thailand could not work efficiently due to lack of dental records and insufficient recorded detail.