Do you remember the strange thrill of losing a tooth when you were a child? On the one hand, you had the distressing feeling of seeing blood and feeling it pop out. At the same time, you knew something exciting was going to happen when you put it under your pillow. If you were lucky, by the next morning, the tooth was gone and some money had magically appeared.
As exciting as the tooth fairy can be for little ones, dental research has shown that there are some good reasons for storing your children’s baby teeth rather than getting rid of them. It turns out those tiny teeth could come in very handy later in life!
Since the 2000s, the scientific and medical discoveries about the wonders of stem cells as potential agents for treatment have often been front and center in the news. And rightly so, since stem cells have the unique capacity to develop into other kinds of cells that the body needs to replace damaged ones. More than that, they seem to be able to divide again and again without limitation.
Stem cell therapies have been used to help patients suffering from cancer and blood-related diseases, according to the Mayo Clinic. While stem cells have traditionally been taken from unused embryos resulting from IVF treatments, more recently, patients have had the option of keeping blood from the umbilical cord during delivery.
This blood can then be “banked” for future use, stored safely so that the stem cells are there for therapies the child might need one day. But what if a parent isn’t aware of this option at birth? Is it too late to harness the incredible healing power of stem cells?
Fortunately, capturing stem cells can be as simple as collecting your kids’ baby teeth. For many children, running around, playing sports, and just being kids can result in the damage of their adult teeth. Depending on the nature of the injury, “it can hinder blood supply and root development, resulting in an essentially ‘dead’ tooth,” according to Science Daily.
To fight this problem, a team of dental researchers from the United States and China collaborated on a study to see how effective dental stem cells from baby teeth could be in treating damaged adult teeth. The results were incredible. Professor Songtao Shi of the University of Pennsylvania told Science Daily that “this treatment gives patients sensation back in their teeth […] They have living teeth again.”
Dr. Shi first discovered the existence of stem cells in baby teeth while working close to home—on his daughter’s teeth, to be exact! Now, he’s optimistic about the power of baby teeth stem cells becoming “a routine therapy” that could help people all over the world. “For me, the results are very exciting,” he said.
But how can you effectively capture the stem cells in your children’s baby teeth? The important thing is to catch them before they fall out (and lose blood supply), while they are still intact but wiggly. Many companies offer “collection kits” that help parents ensure the miraculous cells inside their kids’ teeth aren’t wasted. And who’s to say that the tooth fairy couldn’t still make a visit while they’re sleeping.