- June 25, 2019
The tooth fairy might be on to something. Rather than discarding baby teeth, wisdom teeth or teeth that have been extracted by a dentist, have you considered the concept of having a tooth bank?
You may have heard of parents who save and store the blood from their child’s umbilical cord or placenta in case there is a need for hematopoietic stem cells later to treat a long list of diseases. Setting up a tooth bank for your baby’s oral care is a similar strategy. Tooth banking involves the storing of dental stem cells that have been harvested from the dental pulp within a tooth by a dental professional.
Stem Cells from the Dental Pulp
Dental pulp contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). While there is no medical application for MSC currently, the hope is over time, researchers will figure out ways to use the stem cells for regenerative treatments to battle diseases, repair injuries and produce replacement tissues. There are studies underway to assess the role MSC might play in treating conditions such as type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injury and heart attacks. A recent clinical study in China shows promise for the use of MSC “to repair dental injuries and fix teeth in the future.”
MSC are pluripotent stem cells, which means they can potentially produce any cell or tissue needed by the body. Like all stem cells, they can also self-renew, perpetually creating more copies of themselves.
How It Works
While a tooth bank requires a bit of advance planning. First, you need to sign up with a tooth banking service that provides a collection kit generally containing a vial, stabilizing solution, and cold packs. It’s a good idea to let your dentist know about your plans as soon as you select and enroll with a service provider.
Teeth from which stem cells are harvested must be extracted by your dentist (even baby teeth). Following the extraction of the tooth (or teeth), they are then placed in the collection kit by the dentist. The kit is shipped via an express overnight service such as FedEx or UPS to the service provider. Trained professionals then harvest the MSC, test the cells to make sure they are viable, and cryogenically preserve the cells at their site for future use. Storing the cells at home is not an option.
Costs for a Tooth Bank
Shorewood Dental is a kids dentist near Joliet, and is not affiliated with any tooth banking services. Prices vary depending on what service you select. Generally, there is a processing fee of around $600 to $900 for the lab work required to harvest, test and freeze the stem cells. Then expect to pay an annual storage fee ranging from $100 to $150.
While there is no guarantee that having a tooth bank will pay off in the long term, it is an investment worth evaluating given the rapid pace of medical treatment advancements.