Recently the tiny dental stem cells harvested from baby teeth have made big regenerative research news.  Welcome to Part II of “Stem-cells and Dentistry,” in which we investigate the controversial subject of the dental stem cells found within deciduous teeth.
In the previous blog, we mentioned the recent FOX News program on the topic of banking dental stem-cells from baby-teeth.

Deciduous teeth have stem-cells which bear research in regenerative medicine.

Regenerative Stem-cells: Little Teeth Might Pack Big Healing Power!

Significant strides are being made, for example, in regenerative research for using these dental Mesenchymal Cells in treatments for diabetes.

You might want to read or review our Part I, which also explained why some parents are eluding the Tooth Fairy and banking the baby teeth of their children with a stem-cell storage facility.  There’s more to the story than picking up teeth shed by children.  However, such teeth must be extracted by your pediatric or family dentist and properly packaged in a kit.  The special kit is shipped to dentists from the Dental Stem-cell banks.

Scientists have explained that, in order for the stem-cells to be viable, the little teeth must have at least a third of the root intact.  This necessitates extraction by a dentist soon after the tooth wiggles in the socket.  Find out more details at Parent Map online magazine.

Regenerative Research:  Dental Dreams for Stem Cells

Just as they learned about cord blood banking, many parents have discovered research about dental stem-cells, which are richly abundant and locked in the pulp of baby teeth.

Regenerative medicine depends on stem-cell research.

On the Cutting Edge of Regenerative Medicine: Dental Stem-cell Research

Some parents desire to invest in the future of stem cell possibilities. They want their children to have future access to the stem cells that are within extracted deciduous teeth and, perhaps, their wisdom teeth.

Dental Stem-cell Savings:

Parents are placing their children’s baby teeth with facilities (tooth banks) which freeze and store the stem-cells from them.

Known as Mesenchymal Cells, dental stem cells can become bone, dentin, and other types of tissues.  The belief of some parents is that scientists will soon unlock the healing power of these cells to cure many types of diseases, such as diabetes.

Research science is currently involved in many impressive studies based the on the potential of dental stem-cells.  Some of today’s parents simply want to be ready for tomorrow’s scientific discoveries. The FOX News story centered on the efforts of families whose children have diabetes.

Regenerative Power of Baby Teeth:  The Mysteries of Dental Stem-cells

Although the idea of saving dental stem-cells is comparable in principal to saving umbilical cord blood, the cells are different.  “The stem cells from umbilical cord blood are called hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs).  They can be utilized “in blood-based therapies to regenerate blood and bone marrow for cancer patients.”

Thus, dental stem-cell research is predicated on over 50 years of research concerning stem cell behavior.  Advocates of tooth banking cite that these successes “provide a valuable pathway for researching, understanding, and utilizing dental stem cells for various functions.” In Pregnancy and Baby  Magazine online, writer Michelle Bruns Maffei reported the words of Dr. David Matzilevich, M.D., Ph.D., and Chief Scientific Officer of National Dental Pulp Laboratory. “With so many potential stem cell treatments, there is still so much left to learn – and the momentum in research continues to build.”  Dr. Matzilevich added, “This is a very exciting time for stem cell research.”

Three Positives About Regenerative Power of Dental Stem-cells, Also Called MSCs

In summary, below are three positives about the MSCs and regenerative research:

Baby teeth are being banked for valuable stem-cells because of regenerative powers.

Regenerative Research finds Stem-cells in Baby Teeth.

1.  Dental Pulp Banking–Saving the Stem-cells:  On the one hand, the MSCs might be “transformed into other cells including cardiac, muscle, bone, cartilage, nerve,” and fat tissue by cutting edge science.  They might be the mysterious keys to unlocking the bodies power to regenerate new bones, teeth and nerves.  Our deep readers might want to check out the information in the National Health Library.

Right now we know the dental stem-cells might be useful in case of dental issues or in case of other future sickness encountered by the child.  Read more about the advances made with these cells and their insulin producing ability at an online diabetes resource.

2.  Pulp Banking Probability:  Peter Verlander, PhD, the chief scientific officer of Provia, states, “Some people believe that one tooth will give you enough stem cells for many clinical applications, but it’s very difficult to predict how many is enough.  He stated, “These are highly proliferative cells, more proliferative in culture than bone marrow cells.  The people who are working with them think that you could get many, many ‘doses’ of cells from a single tooth.”

3.  Collection is convenient and minimally invasive.  The kits used by such agencies as Store-a-Tooth are often the same as the Save-a-Tooth kits used to preserve teeth that have been knocked out by sports injuries.  The special kits protect the extracted baby teeth until they arrive at the bank for preservation and storage of the MSCs in the pulp.

4.  We are possibly right on the brink of many scientific discoveries and regenerative uses  for MSCs.  “Animal testing of MSC therapies has shown significant progress in regenerating teeth with dental pulp stem cells; and human trials using these stem cells will soon be underway.”

The Negative Considerations To Chew On

1. On the other hand, at the current time, “the benefits and opportunity to use MSCs is theoretical.”  The research is speculative and largely academic or laboratory-related and progress is slow.

Children dream of tooth fairy. Parents dream of regenerative stem-cell healing.

Regenerative Stem-cells or Tooth Fairy Magic?

Deep readers will want to investigate this online resource.  Likewise, parents should be aware that “Regenerative therapies and treatments for disease still need to be thoroughly researched and approved by the FDA.”

Check out more about the FDA regulation of Tooth Banks and stem-cell saving facilities at this article by The New England Journal of Medicine.   Only studies have been sanctioned by the FDA, not the common sale or use of dental stem-cells.

2.  No Free Ride on Regenerative Research:  You should also know that annual fees for banking dental pulp are not free, and some detractors say costs are unjustified at the current time.

3.  Check Out the Tooth Bank you Trust:  Like the FDA, the AAPD has advised parents and dentists to proceed with caution when choosing a tooth bank option.  “As the technology continues to evolve, the process of procurement of dental stems cells should be accomplished only with deliberate integrity and appropriate informed consent to assure the highest ethical standards and quality of outcomes.”

In the future, all of these pros and cons will probably collect into one big parental decision about whether banking the MSCs, the dental Stem-cells, is worth the financial risks or not.

To Save or not to save–Some day, you, as a parent, might have to decide what is right for your family.  In a light hearted side note, at least one of these banks gives you a certificate for the tooth fairy. Thus, your child will still have a token to leave under their pillow in place of the tooth.