Should you save your child’s baby teeth?
You’ve probably seen the articles online — the ones with screaming headlines like, “Don’t Let the Tooth Fairy Have Those Baby Teeth!” or “The Life-Saving Reason to Keep Your Child’s Primary Teeth!”
What are they talking about? And should you listen to their advice?
The Dental Pulp in Baby Teeth Cells Has Unique Properties
Parents have been storing umbilical cord blood in medical banks for years, as it contains stem cells that could potentially be helpful in treating a disease or illness in the future.
The idea behind saving primary teeth is similar; the dental pulp in the primary teeth also contains stem cells. For this reason, parents may also wish to consider storing these teeth in a medical bank.
What’s more, the cells in dental pulp have been scientifically shown to have special properties. Referred to as SHED cells — for stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth — they live for a long time and grow rapidly in culture. Studies have shown that dental pulp cells also have the potential to regenerate into dentin, bone and nerve cells.
Stem Cells in Baby Teeth May Have Potential Dental Use
The oral care field is excited about the possibility that stem cells in baby teeth could provide a powerful tool in the treatment of disease and injury. And if you didn’t have the opportunity to preserve your children’s umbilical cord blood, saving their primary teeth could provide another viable source of their stem cells.
Unfortunately, we haven’t quite reached the point of being able to use the SHED tissue for medical or dental treatment. While nearly 80 diseases can be treated with umbilical cord blood, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not yet approved the use of dental pulp stem cells in any medical or dental procedure.
But therapies that use SHED cells are being researched actively, with many promising developments on the horizon.
Does Future Potential Justify the Cost of Storing Baby Teeth?
To answer this question, consider when parents first began storing umbilical cord blood.
At that time, the benefits were uncertain, as the science was relatively untested. The same can be said today for saving primary teeth. Current research points to a promising future for SHED stem cells, but the truth is, no one knows when or to what degree these cells will actually be useful.
Unfortunately, saving baby teeth is not inexpensive. Many medical banks charge an upfront fee of several hundred dollars, along with yearly fees for storage (typically about $150 annually). Some industry experts believe that, until the science progresses further, storing your child’s primary teeth could be premature and not worth the cost.
Others, however, see the exciting potential of SHED cells and consider it a wise investment to preserve the primary teeth.
In deciding whether to store your child’s baby teeth, it’s important to weigh the uncertainties and costs against the possible future benefits of dental pulp stem cells. It may be a very wise investment in your child’s future.
Meanwhile, trust your child’s oral health to the experienced professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah. We have offices throughout the Salt Lake City area, and serve patients from all over northern Utah. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or a consultation to discuss your child’s baby teeth.