Saving baby teeth could save lives
As a child, there are few things more exciting than losing a tooth and waking up with some money under your pillow from the Tooth Fairy. But, doctors are telling parents to hold on to those baby teeth because they could come in handy later in life.
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that baby teeth, also known as deciduous teeth, store a myriad of stem cells.
That means that if later in life, a child needs replacement tissue for whatever reason, the stem cells from their baby teeth can be used to grow the needed tissue. Pretty amazing!
There are two basic kinds of stem cells, embryonic and adult. The former can only harvested from human embryos, while the latter are found in a variety of human tissues such as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat, and, since 2003, baby teeth. The scientists who discovered that the pulp of baby teeth is rich in stem cells also noted that SHED (“stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth”) have unique properties:
They are long lived, grow rapidly in culture, and, with careful prompting in the laboratory, have the potential to induce the formation of specialized dentin, bone, and neuronal cells. If followup studies extend these initial findings, the scientists speculate they may have identified an important and easily accessible source of stem cells that possibly could be manipulated to repair damaged teeth, induce the regeneration of bone, and treat neural injury or disease.
Potentially, the practice of storing baby teeth could save lives and treat a variety of ailments.
So if you thought getting a dollar for your tooth was cool, then getting the chance to grow any kind of tissue, from heart cells to brain cells, and repair damaged tissue is definitely even coooler!!
The tricky thing, however, is that the tooth has to have an adequate blood supply before being frozen. You can’t just keep the teeth in a box and use them later for stem cells. The cells will degrade and lose their potency if not properly preserved.
Losing baby teeth, or deciduous teeth, as they’re properly known, is a rite of passage for kids everywhere.
Most of us can remember that first little wiggle that let us know a change was coming, and then the weird absence of a tooth when it finally fell out.
So if you thought getting a dollar for your tooth was cool, then getting the chance to grow any kind of tissue, from heart cells to brain cells, and repair damaged tissue is really cool.
But there’s one catch: the baby teeth have to be kept fresh. Like anything, stem cells degrade and lose their potency over time.
So simply keeping your child’s baby teeth in a box isn’t going to cut it.
Instead, parents can use services like Store-A-Tooth to properly preserve their children’s teeth.
Considering the uncertainties and the cost, then, parents would be well advised to seek the opinion of a knowledgeable medical professional and carefully weigh their decision before investing in a baby tooth bank account.
The teeth are placed in a liquid nitrogen cryopreservation vault, where the stem cells will remain intact and usable for years.
If later in life, the child, who may be an adult at this point, needs their stem cells, the teeth are taken out of storage and shipped to their doctor.
It seems like all the cultures that had superstitions about the power of baby teeth were, in a strange way, actually onto something!
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