Recently exfoliated (lost) deciduous (baby) teeth may serve a much more important purpose than functioning as trading chips for the tooth fairy. U.S. National Institutes of Health researcher Dr. Songtao became interested about his daughter’s teeth when she lost her first baby tooth at the age of six. Dr. Songtao, who is also a pediatric dentist, was conducting pioneering research by extracting adult stem cells from wisdom teeth. With his background, he took his daughter’s tooth into the lab and was able to extract “intermediate” stem cells. His daughter and even her friend’s exfoliated deciduous teeth were soon being collected.
Much like umbilical cord tissue is now (in a program called SHED, Stem cells from Human Exfoliated Deciduous), Dr. Songtao feels these stem cells should be harvested and “banked” just the same. A company in Texas is actually performing this service already for a one time processing fee of $595, plus $89 per year for storage.
Considered “intermediate”, the stem cells of exfoliated deciduous teeth are extracted soon after the tooth becomes loose. Capable to turning into tooth-forming cells (odontoblasts), fat cells, bone cells, and even nerve cells, they are versatile and much less controversial than embryonic stem cells.
The potential to even cure Parkinson’s disease exists if the teeth are harvested early and stored in liquid nitrogen said Australian researcher Dr. Stan.
It is hoped that the technology will be available to use these cells in many more ways in less than 10 years. Even now, researchers are examining the opportunity of using the stem cells to make dental implants that would be better accepted by the human body, generate new bone to repair the damage of gum disease, and grow new teeth to restore lost ones.
The potential benefit of stem cell research is almost without limit, even though this is a new area for scientists. Our current best efforts in regards to medical treatments may appear medieval in comparison to the new technologies that may develop.