'Banking' your children's teeth could have big payoffs in their futures

By  | 

Janette and Grieg Fennell eat right and live a healthy lifestyle, but good health is something their family never takes for granted.

The Fennells were intrigued by an idea proposed by their dentist when their youngest child was 15.

"He needed to get his wisdom teeth extracted,” said Janette. “As part of the process, we learned about this tooth storage opportunity.”

Dr. Jason Bresler is a pediatric dentist who offers the tooth banking service to patients.

“With baby teeth, you know you’re getting a small amount of tissue that has these stem cells in them,” he said.

During the procedure, dentists extract a tooth before it falls out. The tooth is preserved in a special solution, packed in ice, and shipped to a facility where the teeth are processed and stem cells are stored.

Teeth are a good source of special stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells that can form into tissues like nerves, muscles, and even bone. These cells have been important in regenerative medicine.

“In the future,” said Dr. Bresler, “it could be used to treat nerve damage from a car accident, or replacement of an organ, or treatment of Type 1 diabetes.”

The Fennells are banking on medical advances in the future giving their son a healthcare advantage someday if he would need it.

“It’s a contingency plan,” said Greig. “It’s much like insurance, but instead of it being a death benefit, it’s a life-giving benefit.”

There is an initial processing fee for tooth storage of between $850 and $1750 depending upon the option families choose. The annual storage fee is about $120 or $10 a month.

RESEARCH SUMMARY
REPORT: MB #4384

STEM CELLS: Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types throughout the body during early life and growth. Many tissues also serve as a sort of internal repair system, essentially dividing without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell, or become another type of cell with a more specific/specialized function; for example: a red or white blood cell, muscle cell, or a brain cell. Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two characteristics. They are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves via cell division, and under certain experimental or physiologic conditions, they can be induced to become organ- or tissue-specific cells with a specialized function. In some organs stem cells will regularly divide to help replace or repair worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, these stem cells can only divide under special conditions.
(Source: https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/1.htm)

CORD BLOOD BANKING: Cord blood banking is a process where cord blood stem cells from a baby’s umbilical cord are collected and stored for potential future medical use. Parents may also choose the option to store the stem cells found in the tissue of the umbilical cord as well; this is also known as cord tissue banking. The purest stem cells are associated with fewer side effects and faster recovery time, and red blood cell depletion is recommended by the FDA. The cells go through a process called cell separation, where they are spun in a centrifuge to reduce red blood cells and unwanted plasma, along with non-useful or detrimental components from the desired pure stem cell collection. Purer stem cells are generally more helpful to regenerative medicine. This involves the evolving area of stem cell therapy which looks to heal the body from within, with the potential to treat damaged organs and tissues.
(Source: https://www.viacord.com/cord-banking/ and https://www.viacord.com/cord-banking/processing-and-storage/index.aspx)

STORE-A-TOOTH: Parents now have the option of banking their children’s teeth as another option to save stem cells for possible future medical needs. Store-A-Tooth is a service of Provia Labs that involves extracting, processing, and storing children’s stem cells from their baby teeth. A tooth collection kit is shipped to the parents to submit the sample. It includes all materials needed to protect and transport the sample to their lab, and can store up to four teeth. If the child has a scheduled extraction, parents can bring the kit with them and coordinate pick up from the practice location. In the event their child is losing baby teeth, the kit can be overnighted the day the child’s tooth comes out. Once it arrives at the facility it is processed and the stem cells are maintained in a cryopreserved state at the facility until the day they are needed and issued to the person’s healthcare provider.
(Source: Store-A-Tooth Family Information Packet 2016, www.store-a-tooth.com)