When kids lose their baby teeth, it’s a sign of a developmental milestone, and a chance to bring a little magic into their lives via visits from the tooth fairy. Some parents simply throw away the little teeth, but some keep them. When most parents keep their children’s baby teeth, it is for sentimental reasons, as little tokens of those precious years. But now there may be another, more important reason to keep those teeth.
According to a recent study, baby teeth are good sources of stem cells. Stem cells are a specific type of cell that can be used to grow replacement body tissues, and possibly cure some kinds of diseases, including diabetes or heart disease.
If a child or family member develops one of these diseases some time down the road, the stem cells could be used to treat them. Some parents take the opportunity to store their child’s umbilical cord stem cells just after birth, but many do not. It turns out baby teeth are another way to obtain these crucial cells.
“Cord blood is great, but if you can get them from baby teeth so much the better because you don’t have to bank them at the day you are born. You can actually wait until the teeth grow out,” said Dr. Schmidt, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. “That day is not too far in the future,” Schmidt said. “We will probably see it with our lifetimes where we will be able to dial a gene and figure out how we can fix what’s wrong with us.”
Others agree. A fourth year dental student named Landon Sears, studying at the Medical University of South Carolina, says that harvesting stem cells from these teeth is a hot topic among his professors and lecturers. “It may not seem like a big deal losing a baby tooth,” Sears said. “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.” He said the best route to take it to schedule an appointment with the child’s pediatric dentist when they are about to lose a tooth. That way the tooth can be extracted, the stem cells harvested, and preserved properly for future use.