Baby Teeth May be Worth More than a Tooth Fairy Visit

Facing the sad news that her 11-month-old daughter had Type 1 Diabetes, a Reno, Nevada woman began researching new methods of treatment. She soon learned about encapsulation therapy, which is where an encapsulated device containing insulin-producing islet cells derived from stem cells is implanted under the skin. This device protects cells from autoimmune attack and helps the body produce its own insulin.

In a twist of fate, when on Facebook one day she saw an ad for a company known as “Store-A-Tooth,” which offers dental stem cell banking. Not wanting to rule out any options, she went ahead and contacted the company and now has four of her daughter’s teeth (and the millions of dental stem cells they provide) stored at the facility to potentially use for encapsulation therapy.

However, the big question mark surrounding this procedure is what exactly dental stem cells are able to do. For years the focus has been on stems cells from umbilical cords and bone marrow, so the knowledge of the potential of dental stem cells is limited. Yet, Dr. Jade Miller, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, believes “at some point in time, we’re going to see dental stem cells used by dentists… on a daily practice.”

Based on early research it appears that stem cells extracted from teeth will be able to produce dental tissue, bone, cartilage and muscle. This means they could potentially repair a cracked toot, treat cavities with biological material versus more traditional filling methods, and even grow a new tooth in place of needing an implant.

Other evidence points to dental stem cell’s ability to produce nerve tissue, which could eliminate the need for root canals. They may even be able to treat neurological disorders and spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.

And, yes, dental stem cells have also shown the ability to form insulin-producing islet cells, which could help treat patients with Type 1 Diabetes.

Dental stem cells also offer two major advantages over umbilical and bone marrow cells. First, stem cells from an umbilical cord can only be harvested once, while dental stem cells can be taken from one or more teeth at any time. Second, harvesting bone marrow stem cells requires a painful and risky surgery, unlike the routine procedure of tooth extraction.

While much research still need to be done, current indicators point to dental stem cells having a lot to offer the dental and medical community in the future. So if avoiding cavities isn’t enough of a reason to get your patients to floss, perhaps you can show them this article. It turns out their teeth might be good for a lot more than just chomping on their favorite treats!