Scientists have used stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow to treat diseases, metabolic and immune disorders, and blood cancers for years, but there is a newer trend where parents are banking baby teeth for dental stem cells, and the practice shows great promise.
What are stem cells and why are they important?
Stem cells are capable of changing into different cell types. They can also aid in the healing of damaged tissue. Scientists and doctors are so excited about the growing role of stem cells to treat disease, injury, and the deterioration of tissue due to aging. Dental stem cells are adult stem cells found in baby teeth as well as wisdom teeth and are able to differentiate into bone, dental tissue, cartilage, and muscle, and neural tissue. Many experts believe there are even uses in regenerative dentistry. There is great promise in stem cells and in particular, dental stem cells, and many professionals recommend banking the valuable stem cells found in baby teeth.
What’s the difference between dental stem cells and cord blood?
Cord blood has long been known as a rich resource of stem cells; in particular, hematopoietic stem cells, also known as HSCs. They are potent cells, giving rise to all cells found in the body, both red and white, as well as platelets. This is why they are very valuable for treating child patients who may suffer from cancerous blood disorders. The challenge with cord blood is that there is a very limited amount that is only available in very small quantities, and more is needed when treating an adult.
Dental stem cells, on the other hand, provide parents the ability to store stem cells long after a child is born. For those who either could not afford to collect cord blood, or there were complications that prevented the collection of cord blood, the opportunity to still collect stems cells through baby teeth can be very attractive. Also, because collecting dental stem cells requires a less intrusive process (extracting baby teeth) many parents find this option more attractive.
Do all pediatric dentists work with dental stem cells?
There are several companies that are in the industry of dental stem cells, including StemSave, Store-a-Tooth, and The Tooth Bank. While parents can work with these companies directly, talk to your pediatric dentist to see if they work with any of these organizations and which one is right for you. They can assist in guiding you through the process and can answer any questions that you may have.
Can parents just collect baby teeth and store them until needed?
The value of dental stem cells from children is that teeth are stronger when younger, and then age over time, so the stem cells in teeth are reduced as we get older. Also, most professionals suggest storing more than one tooth. Most dental stem cell companies do provide a tooth storage container, but it is meant only to ship the tooth back to the company’s facility, not for long-term home storage.
Will any tooth do for dental stem cells?
Though there are dental stem cells present in periodontal ligaments and in apical papilla, those dental stem cells that are easiest to retrieve and bank are found in exfoliating primary teeth. It is best to get the stem cells from baby teeth that need to be extracted due to orthodontic reasons because there are fuller roots on them then an exfoliating primary tooth.
Pediatric dentists working with dental stem cell companies can advise you on how best to collect a child’s teeth for storage.
Banking baby teeth for dental stem cells is still unfamiliar ground for many parents. Do your research to decide for yourself how or if you’ll store your child’s dental stem cells for future use, and then collaborate with your pediatric dentist, so the preservation of the teeth are a success.