Children are used to trading in their baby teeth for an extra buck or two. While some of us would long for a visit from the tooth fairy in order to gain some monetary value, there might actually be more worth hidden within those baby teeth (and some wisdom teeth.) According to AOL, a recent study showed that baby teeth contain an abundance of stem cells. Stem cells are a type of cell that can potentially grow replacement tissue in the body and cure a number of diseases.
During an interview with ABC News, Dr. Michael Schmidt, who is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, said: ‘stem cells have this fancy term, they are called pluripotent which is code for they just make more. And when you add the right chemical combination to those stem cells you can expand them, you can grow as many as you need.’
And according to Snopes.com, there are two types of stem cells, one that is embryonic and one that is found in adults. Embryonic stem cells are ‘only harvested from human embryos, while the [human stem cells] are found in a variety of human tissues such as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat, and, since 2003, baby teeth.’
In 2013, the California Dental Association quoted Dr. Pamela Robey from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: ‘What we do know is the cells from the dental pulp in baby or wisdom teeth have the ability to make dentin and pulp and they might have the ability to make bone, but right now that’s all we really know for sure…we can’t say how useful for the future they’ll be.’
While stem cells have long been touted as having the ability to treat a multitude of diseases, many parents have already missed out on extracting stem cells from their umbilical cords during birth. And Dr. Schmidt says that baby teeth are now another avenue for parents to have access to stem cells. ‘Baby teeth just happen to be that one extra place that we can recover them, cord blood is great, but if you can get them from baby teeth so much better because you don’t have to bank them on the day you are born. You can actually wait until the teeth grow out.’
Landon Sears, who is a dental student at the Medical University of South Carolina, says that it is important to ensure that the tissue stays alive after the tooth falls out and that responsibility lies on the parents to be proactive in scheduling an appointment with a dentist. An ABC News article revealed that ‘the tooth needs to be preserved within 48 hours of coming out.’ In an interview with ABC News, Landon said: ‘The most common way is there are a number of labs that will send the dentist or patient a kit with preserving liquid to keep the tissue alive. They just send it to a lab and eventually, they store the teeth for you. It may not seem like a big deal losing a baby tooth, but if you need a regenerative tissue procedure way down the road for an organ replacement or some type of surgery it could literally make the difference in a person’s life.’
And now companies such as Provia and Store-A-Tooth are offering their services to freeze and store baby teeth. In an article published by Global News, the American company Store-A-Tooth has begun accepting Canadian teeth to be ‘frozen and stored in its Massachusetts lab. Families can retrieve them in the future if they ever need them.’ However, some critics argue that the cost of the procedure and storing it far outweigh the medical benefits available now. The ABC News article revealed that Store-A-Tooth advertises its services at nearly $1,800 USD, while other companies charge between $800 to $900 USD.
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