Cord blood & cord tissue
Losing your milk teeth is a natural part of growing up. On average, children in the UK lose 12 milk teeth between the ages of 5 and 10. These milk teeth are gradually replaced by adult teeth, which they will keep for the rest of their lives.
Losing milk teeth is a non-invasive process which children even look forward to as a sign of growing up. Many adults look back to their first visit from the tooth fairy with fond memories, but now the losing of milk teeth has become far more exciting than the expectation of a 50p coin under the pillow.
Stem cell therapy is taking the medical world by storm. The ability to rebuild parts of the human body in a lab in order to replace tissue, tendons, bones and even organs with organic matter that is a perfect match to the individual patient is a real medical breakthrough.
Tooth stem cell banking. You may have heard of it from your health care provider or even another parent. However, you aren’t sure about what the term actually means, or why it’s important to bank your child’s baby teeth, or even how and where to do it.
Storing stem cells derived from teeth for future medical use is a fairly new practice, although banking cord blood (also a rich source of stem cells) has been around for longer, not to mention the usage of stem cells in bone marrow transplants.
Still not quite sure what any of the terms mean? This guide aims to explain what they are, and to take you through medical tooth storage, from start to finish.
What is a stem cell?
Stem cells are the body’s building blocks. They are able to multiply themselves to create new cells and change into whichever type of cell the body needs. A single cell from a child’s milk tooth is capable of adapting itself to become bone, muscle, tendons, skin, nerves and cartilage.
Cells – more specifically stem cells – are essentially the building blocks of our bodies.
The cells in our body are able to replicate themselves (a skin cell is able to form other skin cells, blood cells will divide into other blood cells, and so on). However, stem cells are able to reproduce themselves not only into other stem cells, but also cells capable of growing into any other cell in the body under certain conditions – almost like blank slates. This has led to a lot of promising research into regenerative medicine. It means advances into treating illnesses such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries, to name just a few.
The treatment process when using stem cells is similar to blood marrow transplant. A stem cell transplant allows your body to grow healthy cells stemming from the original to repair or replace damaged ones.
Typically, stem cells are harvested from umbilical cord blood from newborns and from milk teeth in children, although they can be found in adults as well. They are located in a few places across the human body, but exist in greater numbers in dental pulp, thereby ensuring better viability when the time comes to retrieve them.
Harvesting stem cells
Stem cells in general are not easy to come by. Until now, the most common way of harvesting stem cells to use in stem cell therapy has been by removing part of a patient’s bone marrow and isolating the stem cells in a lab. In this procedure, doctors usually use a long needle to withdraw bone marrow directly from the pelvis and backbone. The patient must have a general anaesthetic before undergoing this procedure, otherwise it would be extremely painful. The patient would then usually need around a week to recover while their body creates enough bone marrow to replace the quantity taken.
Many people are aware that stem cells are stored in the bone marrow in the body, but few realise that there are also stem cells present in milk teeth. Harvesting stem cells from teeth is much less invasive for the patient than extracting bone marrow. Stem cells can be found in dental pulp, which naturally occurs inside milk teeth. This dental pulp is taken to the lab and stem cells are isolated in the same way that they would be from a bone marrow sample, but, seeing as losing milk teeth is a natural part of life, this is much less traumatic than the bone marrow alternative.
The lack of an invasive medical procedure required to procure a dental stem cell is great for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is no risk of harming your child or affecting their health in any way, making it a safe, rather than daunting, procedure. Secondly, far fewer medical staff and pieces of medical equipment are required, making the process much cheaper than alternative ways of harvesting stem cells.
Why should you save your child’s baby teeth for stem cells?
Life is unpredictable. Illnesses and injuries happen, not to mention just plain growing old. Stem cell banking is a form of insurance for your child’s future. Imagine a sort of restart point for the cells to regenerate from again in the event of misfortune, or even just simply age. Perhaps we can’t regrow things like entire limbs presently, but there is good evidence that we can, and have regrown cells for other purposes, like knee cartilage repair for when your child grows (much) older, or for blood-based illnesses like HIV/AIDS or certain blood cancers. For now, medical research is still ongoing, and it is strongly believed that in the near future, stem cells will be used in ever more wide-ranging fields, which is a good reason to preserve stem cells while they are young.
Aside from ensuring that your child has healthy cells to fall back on later in life, the same stem cells will also be able to help blood-related family should they fall ill with life-threatening diseases.
Stem cells harvested from children’s teeth are generally of better quality than when they are taken as adults, since they are less affected by factors such as ageing, accumulated illness or environmental factors, which can lead to cells of deteriorated quality. As they grow older too, cavities may also affect whether a tooth is available to be used for stem cell banking.
Using baby teeth stem cells to heal and repair
Once the stem cells are harvested and scientists are able to get them to multiply into enough cells to start building tissue, they can begin to be used in stem cell therapy. This medical technique is on the rise as more research is being carried out into exactly how far it could progress the course of medicine.
As it stands, we know that stem cells can be used to create skin grafts to help patients recover from severe burns, rebuild the connections between nerves to help combat brain damage, rebuild cardiac muscles damaged by heart disease, create cells which secrete insulin to cure diabetes, replace cartilage, tissue and bone and potentially treat patients suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative motor neurone diseases.
The extraordinary power of stem cells to transform themselves into other cells within the body means that the possibilities will only continue to increase as more research is conducted.
Store a tooth UK
Storing your child’s milk teeth will give them the best chances should they need stem cell therapy in the future. As this field of medicine grows and develops, the possibilities for the power of stem cells to cure more and more conditions will only increase. The knowledge that your child’s stem cells are already stored will give you peace of mind, knowing that, should your child be injured or develop a serious condition, you’ve done everything you can to give them the best shot at stem cell therapy.
There are no guarantees, but having the stem cell teeth stored and ready to use will give your child the best fighting chance if the doctors think that stem cell therapy is a viable treatment.
Why do we use stem cells in teeth?
Stem cells collected from teeth are just as viable as those sourced from bone marrow. Seeing as everybody loses teeth anyway, it is an excellent way of banking stem cells for your child and your family as a whole and storing them, in case anything should happen in the future.
Baby teeth storage
For some families, the decision to save their child’s milk teeth could not be easier. There are a large number of genetic diseases passed on from generation to generation that are starting to respond to stem cell therapy. Parents who know that they carry genes for a particular hereditary disease, such as sickle cell, or whose children already have a diagnosis for such a condition, are saving their children’s milk teeth to give them the best possible future. By ensuring that their child’s stem cells are stored when they are most viable, parents are doing everything they can to increase the chances of successful stem cell treatments in the future.
Tooth banks are a type of medical storage unit which take in teeth from donors all across the country. There are laboratories onsite which process the teeth and extract the stem cells before making sure that they are ready for storage. The tooth bank will then take care of the milk teeth stem cell storage, so that the cells are ready to use should you ever need them.
How can you extract stem cells from a tooth?
Teeth are fully inspected to check that they are healthy and in good condition when they arrive at the laboratory, before the technician can begin to extract the stem cell from teeth. The tooth is disinfected and the dental pulp is extracted from the main tooth. Dental pulp is the soft tissue which is found inside teeth. It is the part which receives a blood supply from the gums and is also the part of the tooth which stores the stem cells. This soft tissue and the teeth cells inside are treated with what is called a cryoprotectant, to help preserve the cells during freezing. The cells are then kept in medically inspected freezers, where they will stay until they are required.
How long can you store a tooth for?
To date, the longest recorded storage period for stem cells once they have been extracted is 22 years. Researchers found that after 22 years, the cells were still as healthy and as ready to use as they were when they were first harvested. Other types of human cells have been successfully stored for 50 years.
The difference between cord blood banking and dental pulp banking
Cord blood and dental pulp hold two different kinds of stem cells. Umbilical cords hold hematopoietic progenitor cells, or HPCs. These are used primarily in the treatment of blood diseases – leukaemia and lymphoma, for instance.
Tooth stem cell banking is a newer process, having only been around since the 2000s. The cells found in teeth are known as mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs. One may also find MSCs in bone marrow, but they are inferior in quality compared to the ones found in healthy teeth. They have the potential to be used in treatments for several other types of tissue and organs such as muscle and skin, as opposed to the more limited usage of HPCs in blood diseases.
One notable recent development in the use of MSCs in therapy involves the growth of new skin for burn victims, via the spraying on of stem cells to the affected areas. The results have been encouraging. Another is the use of stem cells to regenerate badly damaged lung tissue, in the wake of respiratory pandemics in 2009.
Saving baby teeth for stem cells
Stem cells from baby teeth are particularly prized because there is evidence to suggest that stem cells from younger donors have more of a success rate when it comes to medical procedures. The younger the milk tooth, the more potent the stem cells inside it, so, for the most viable stem cells, baby teeth are required.
There is also the added bonus that donating dental stem cells requires no special surgery or any particular effort. You simply let nature take its course and wait for your child to lose a milk tooth, rather than having to subject them to an invasive medical procedure. It is then extremely easy to order one of our kits, follow the instructions to package and send the tooth, and we’ll take care of everything else.
Store milk teeth
It is an easy process to store dental pulp with Stem Protect. You can make an appointment even before your child’s milk teeth are beginning to come out.
First, fill out a contact form that you can find on our website, or give us a ring at 0115 967 7707. We will send you a storage agreement for you to sign, and we will also require the initial payment at this point. After that, a collection kit will be mailed to your home, and one of our staff will let you know your phlebotomist’s details by email as well.
When your child’s tooth falls out, follow the instructions in the collection kit closely. Once that is done, please arrange for a courier to come pick it up soon, and make an appointment for our phlebotomist to come by for a blood sample. We have collection services 365 days a year, so rest assured that you will be able to send the tooth to us any day, even if it is a weekend or holiday.
That’s it! Now your child’s milk teeth will be processed and stored safely for the duration of the agreement that you sign for. They will be kept in several samples in a highly secure bank to ensure zero worries on your end, and the ability to use them multiple times if needed.
At our lab, all dental pulp will be carefully and cryogenically preserved at temperatures of -150 degrees Celsius. So far there is no reason to believe that there is an upper limit to how long the tooth stem cells can be stored and still be viable even after thawing; this means that as your child grows up and ages, their cells will still be available in the event of any treatment or therapy they require.
Tooth banking costs
Choosing to store your teeth or your children’s teeth is an elective procedure and, as such, it is not covered by medical or health insurance. Prices for storing your children’s teeth will depend on the package you choose. There are different options according to how many teeth you would like us to process and how long you would like us to store them for. If you give us a call or contact us through our website, we would be more than happy to discuss pricing options with you.
The actual cost will vary based on the length of time that the teeth are stored for. Generally, prices are reasonable and affordable. Right now Stem Protect offers an annual plan as well as a 25-year plan. You can opt to pay a one-time fee or in instalments. Please contact our friendly customer care team to learn more.
We understand that the storage of your stem cells is important to you, and that is why we have a business continuity guarantee. No matter what happens, rest assured that your cells will be well protected.
For the new mother and the baby, we provide both prenatal and newborn screenings, along with diagnostic services for life-changing conditions. These can include things like Patau’s Syndrome and coeliac disease. Alternatively, we are also able to collect and preserve umbilical cord blood for babies.
Adult tooth stem cells banking
If you’re an adult and wish to store your stem cells with us, we provide banking services via dental pulp and adipose tissue.
To date, Stem Protect has processed and stored over 125,000 samples for upwards of 75,000 families. We are an accredited and reliable stem cell storage company in the UK, and we process more samples than any other bank at the moment. Call us today to make an appointment, or for a free, non-obligatory consultation.