It's a milestone for a baby to get his first tooth--and the time he loses his first tooth. Most babies get their first tooth right at around six months, give or take. It is around that time that your little should see a dentist. Then, at five to seven years old, a child will start losing their milk teeth to make way for permanent ones.
That's when the tooth fairy gets to work, at least for some kids. But tooth fairy or none, you might want to hold on to his milk teeth as an investment for his heath in the future. Here's why.
A decade ago, pediatric dentist Dr. Songtao Shi discovered stem cells, particularly mesenchymal stem cells, in the dental pulp of her daughter's milk teeth. Similar to those found in cord blood, these stem cells are like starter cells that could potentially grow and replace damaged tissues and bones in the body.
According to the website of Store-A-Tooth, one of the many dental stem cell banking facilities in the U.S., "The dental pulp in your child’s baby and wisdom teeth is an excellent source of mesenchymal stem cells." These stem cells are used to regenerate bone and tissue throughout the body, and is currently the subject of over 2000 studies for treatments in regenerative medicine. These conditions include type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injury, heart attack, corneal damage, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Richard Benninger, an assistant professor in bioengineering and pediatrics at University of Colorado Hospital, thinks it’s a good idea to start storing your child's baby teeth as an investment for health in the future, especially if you didn't get bank his cord blood.
“It’s nice to be able to have that option,” adds pediatric dentist Dr. Jesse Witkoff. “We don’t have treatment for certain things today, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have them tomorrow,” he said to CBS Local.
Dental stem cell banking in the U.S. is about the same price as cord blood banking. While milk teeth is easier to collect (you just wait for them to fall out!), the cost covers the procedure involves: extraction of stem cells, and then freezing and cryopreserving them.
Is it worth it? Arvin C. Faundo, M.D., medical consultant for CordLife Medical Philippines, could only speak for cord blood. “A family that invests in cord blood banking looks into the future in the same way that another family would get accident insurance. No one wishes for the time to come to use that insurance. But, in case it happens, then the costs incurred will be much lower.”
Dental stem cell banking is currently not yet available in the country.
Sources January 26, 2016. “The Life-Saving Reason to Save Baby Teeth” (yahoo.com) December 10, 2015. “Stem Cells Stored In Baby Teeth Could Help Unlock Cure For Diseases” (cbslocal.com) January 14, 2015. “A Baby Tooth Guided Penn Dental Medicine’s Songtao Shi to Stem Cell Insights” (upenn.edu)