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Losing a baby tooth is a big milestone for a child, but it also can be a lifesaver. Most parents are familiar with the concept of banking their baby's cord blood for the benefit of the amazing stem cells contained in it, but if you didn't do that, there's still a chance to access stem cells from your child in a painless way.
Why Baby Teeth?
A 2003 study spearheaded by Dr. Songtao Shi with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research discovered that baby teeth actually contain one to two dozen valuable stem cells, which can be used later on in life to treat a variety of diseases. Researchers have been studying how stem cells can be used in the brain, pancreas, heart and other organs to repair damage caused by different diseases. Shi and fellow researchers uncovered that one type of stem cells lives inside adult teeth. After studying newly shed baby teeth from seven- and eight-year-old children, they tapped into stem cells completely different than what they found in adult teeth.
How It Works
The stem cells are found inside the dental pulp within a tooth that regenerate into neurons, bone and cartilage--even cardiac cells. In fact, this concept has been crowned an effective treatment for Type 1 diabetes, because dental pulp stem cells can be differentiated into pancreatic-type cells to produce insulin. Preserving stem cells is a delicate process in that the cells must be alive to be useful. The dental pulp has to have had an adequate blood supply within at least 48 hours of being frozen; any less time and the cells will die. Dr. Peter Murray, director of Dental Regenerative Laboratory, even believes that both teeth and oral tissue can be generated from stem cells contained in tooth buds, baby teeth, third molars, periodontal tissues and induced pluripotent cells.
What You Can Do
There are several services available that will store baby teeth for a fee. These service providers recommend that dentists professionally remove baby teeth that are not dangling, because they may not have had the adequate blood supply necessary for storage. Also, dentists have the necessary equipment and sterile environment for packaging and shipping the teeth to their facility. Still, there are some services that will provide parents with all the packaging and shipping supplies needed, so they can store their children's life-saving baby teeth themselves. Most companies provide a storage container and the preservation solution required for the at-home collection process.
In this video, a dentist discusses why he encourages parents to save baby teeth.
While kids eagerly await a monetary surprise from the tooth fairy, parents now know just how valuable their children's baby teeth can be. They're worth more than $1; they can save a life.