Save a Tooth, Save a Life
RGV dentist offers stem cell preservation
Over the past few decades, many of us have heard about saving and preserving a baby’s umbilical cord blood at birth, and although we hope never to need it, research has proven that stem cells obtained through this preservation may help in future treatments for dozens of diseases. What makes stem cells unique is that they have the ability to transform into different types of cells and can aid in many forms of healing. These exciting possibilities have the potential for major medical advancement in the curing of disease, injury, and even repairing deterioration of tissue that occurs as a natural part of the aging process.
So what can you do if your baby is not a baby anymore and you didn’t save the umbilical cord blood? Thankfully, scientific breakthroughs in research have brought to light the availability of stem cells from your child’s primary teeth. As parents, we sometimes tend to write off these “baby teeth” as a chance for our kids to clumsily perfect their tooth brushing skills. Who knew these tiny, temporary teeth could be so important? As science and technology have progressed exponentially, the discovery of stem cell extraction from baby teeth along with continuing research has shown major potential in the field of regenerative medicine with the potential to treat diseases like diabetes, macular degeneration, heart disease, burns, and much more.
About 10 years ago, Dr. Kenneth Baker of McAllen Family and Sedation Dentistry brought the technology to the Valley through collaboration with Store-A-Tooth, a leader in dental stem cell banking. According to Baker, participants have increased as the public becomes more informed about the future possibilities associated with stem cells. Parents of young children tend to be some of those most interested, but although they can provide some of the most vital stem cells for preservation, the process is not limited solely to the use of baby teeth. Wisdom teeth, which are often extracted anyway, can also be an excellent source of stem cells.
“The thing about stem cells from a tooth is that this is technology that is slightly ahead of its time,” Baker said. “With the technology still progressing, this is a decision you would make for the future.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice and pioneer in medical research and application, “Regenerative medicine is a game-changing area of medicine with the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people who have conditions that today are beyond repair.” Though the field has been around for decades in the form of transplants, stem cells are at the forefront of research in the field. They can be collected through cord blood as well as from bone marrow, however, Baker noted that for the latter, it is often a painful procedure. Moreover, even if you have already banked your child’s cord blood, you might still consider storing their baby teeth as they will likely be used in different types of clinical applications related to bone and tissue application rather than blood-related diseases.
In the past, the topic of stem cells has been a controversial one. Due to ethical convictions on the subject, the term “stem cells” has been given a negative connotation, specifically because of embryonic stem cell research. However, not all stem cell research involves human embryos. Though this particular method of obtaining stem cells remains a polarizing issue, Baker noted that obtaining stem cells from teeth is bioethically sound. No one is harmed in the name of science and extracted or avulsed teeth are generally discarded. Currently, teeth are the most noninvasive, convenient, and affordable stem cells to collect.
For those interested in the possibility of storing stem cells from teeth, Baker provides access to the registered, certified, and accredited Store-A-Tooth, which has been available since 2006 with dentists across the country providing materials for the preservation and transportation of teeth. Depending on the amount of stem cells preserved, Store-A-Tooth prices range from $849 to $1,749 with an additional $120 per year for storage. Discounts for multiple family members, payment plans, and even need-based grants are provided.
To find out if Store-A-Tooth is right for you, call Dr. Kenneth Baker of McAllen Family and Sedation Dentistry at (956) 686-2052 for more information.