Q. Is it true parents can bank children’s baby teeth, along the same lines as banking their cord blood?
A. Yes, but while stem cells withdrawn from baby teeth have been banked, scientists are still in the process of determining how they could be used to cure diseases, says Peter Verlander, co-founder and chief scientific officer for the Massachusetts-based Store-A-Tooth, one of the companies that offers customers processing and banking services. If you bank baby teeth — pulled wisdom teeth are also an option — you’ll be among early adopters of a technology that may have the potential to help your children should they need the stem cells later to help cure specific diseases.
Parents only need to store one or two of each child’s teeth, because the mesenchymal stem cells in the dental pulp of the tooth’s crown can be replicated, Verlander says. Mesenchymal stem cells form tissues such as bone, nerve, muscle and blood vessels. Research is under way regarding their use in treating type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injury, stroke, heart attack, corneal damage, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and more. Interested parents should bank teeth from each child, because siblings aren’t always stem cell matches for each other, Verlander says.
Different companies prefer different methods of collection, including having a pediatric dentist pull the baby tooth when it’s about to fall out or parents merely placing a tooth that’s fallen out naturally into a solution and mailing it to the storage facility. Banking prices vary, but run about $500 to $2,000 for initial fees and $100 to $150 for annual storage fees.
“I think it has potential,” Dr. Paul Crespi, chief of pediatric dental medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, says of tooth banking. For more information, talk to your pediatric dentist.