When a child’s baby tooth falls out, we might tell them to place it underneath their pillow for the Tooth Fairy. But what should we actually do with those teeth?
Many medical researchers say that preserving these transitional teeth could potentially save lives. This is because baby teeth store something of great value in their pulp: stem cells.
Stem cells in teeth
Stem cells differ from other types of cells in the human body in that they’re capable of changing into more specialised cells and renewing themselves almost indefinitely. They are at the forefront of medical research because of their tremendous potential to repair or replace specialised tissues and organs.
Stem-cell-based tissue engineering approaches provide the most promising solution for medical conditions previously thought “incurable”, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, muscular dystrophy, etc.
Baby teeth (also called milk teeth) have been proven to hold an abundant source of stem cells in their pulp. Many medical professionals recommend these teeth be stored for possible future regenerative therapies that may benefit the individual and the family.
How to preserve baby teeth
Teeth could potentially last thousands of years if we cleaned them with isopropyl alcohol, dried them thoroughly and then stored them in an airtight container. However, the stem cells located in their pulp would start to decay within days.
Dental stem cells are best preserved cryogenically in a “tooth bank”. These dedicated services are growing in popularity and charge a yearly maintenance fee.