If you have been an expectant parent in the last several years, your doctor may have shared information with you about “umbilical cord banking”. This is a way to harvest stem cells, preserve them, and may one day be able to cure disease or regrow body parts. You may not know that harvesting dental stem cells is becoming more popular.
Stem cells are found throughout the body, but two places where they are easily harvestable are in parts that we shed as we age, like baby teeth (dental pulp) and the umbilical cord. The cells found within these two sources are useful for different applications.
Cord stem cells are used for disorders affecting the blood forming system.
Dental stem cells have a wider range of uses. Research suggests they may be suitable to manage conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type I diabetes, bone regrowth, tissue growth after a heart attack, as well as tooth regeneration.
A baby tooth that has fallen out on its own or is loose, is not a good source as there is no live nerve tissue left in the tooth. Extracted wisdom teeth provide a second opportunity for harvesting.
If you know that baby tooth or wisdom tooth will be extracted, the dentist needs to plan ahead and have the proper packaging and information to preserve the tooth and overnight to the tooth banking company. The company prepares and grows the cells into a colony of several million cells that is then frozen for storage.
Parents will need more than confidence that the research will continue to evolve. Financial resources may be a deciding factor. The initial fee can range from $475-$850 with an annual fee of averaging $120.