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A Guide to Stem Cell Teeth Banking

Losing your baby or 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 keep for the rest of their lives.

Losing milk teeth is a natural and non-invasive process that plenty of 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. Now the loss 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 to replace tissue, tendons, bones, and even organs with organic matter that’s a perfect match for the individual patient is a real medical breakthrough. Use this guide to learn all about stem cell teeth banking.

What is tooth stem cell banking?

Tooth stem cell banking is the preservation of dental pulp from a baby, wisdom, or other adult tooth. Dental pulp is a mass of connective tissue within the centre of the tooth that contains stem cells. It’s these stem cells that may be of use for future health purposes.

You may have heard of tooth stem cell banking from your healthcare provider or another parent. However, you aren’t sure about what the term means, 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. But banking cord blood (also a rich source of stem cells) has been around for longer, not to mention the use of stem cells in bone marrow transplants.

Still not quite sure what any of the terms mean? This guide explains what they are and takes you through medical tooth storage from start to finish.

What is a stem cell?

Stem cells are the body’s building blocks. They can multiply themselves to create new cells and change into whichever type of cell the body needs. Skin cells can form other skin cells, blood cells divide into other blood cells. A single cell from a child’s milk tooth can adapt itself to become bone, muscle, tendons, skin, nerves, and cartilage.

Stem cells are also able to reproduce themselves into 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 in treating illnesses such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injuries.

The treatment process using stem cells is like a bone 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 taken from umbilical cord blood and tissue from newborns and children’s milk teeth – although they can be harvested from adult teeth too. Stem cells are in a few places across the human body but exist in greater numbers in dental pulp. This ensures better viability when the time comes to retrieve them.

Harvesting stem cells

How do you harvest stem cells from teeth?

Generally, stem cells aren’t easy to collect. Until now, the most common way of harvesting stem cells to use in stem cell therapy was 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. Then the patient would usually need around a week to recover while their body creates enough bone marrow to replace the quantity taken.

Many people know stem cells are stored in the bone marrow, but few realise stem cells are also present in milk teeth. Harvesting stem cells from teeth is much less invasive than extracting bone marrow.

Stem cells can be found in dental pulp, which naturally occurs inside baby teeth. This dental pulp is taken to a lab and the stem cells are isolated like they are from a bone marrow sample. As losing milk teeth is a natural part of life, this is much less traumatic than taking them from bone marrow.

A non-invasive medical procedure to procure a dental stem cell is great for various reasons:

  • There’s no risk of harming your child or affecting their health in any way, making it a safe procedure.
  • Fewer medical staff and pieces of medical equipment are required, making the process cheaper than alternative ways of harvesting stem cells.

What are the benefits of saving stem cells from baby teeth?

Storing baby teeth for stem cells is a form of insurance for your child’s future. Life is unpredictable as illnesses and injuries happen, and we all grow older. Imagine a sort of restart point for the cells to regenerate in the event of misfortune or even just simply age.

Stem cells harvested from children’s teeth are generally of better quality than when they’re taken as adults. This is because they’re less affected by ageing, accumulated illness or environmental factors, which can lead to poorer quality cells. As they grow older, cavities may also affect whether a tooth can be used for stem cell banking.

Saving stem cells from baby teeth ensures 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.

We can’t regrow entire limbs presently, but there’s evidence that we can regrow cells for other purposes – like knee cartilage repair or for blood-based illnesses such as HIV/AIDS or certain blood cancers. Medical research is ongoing, but it’s believed stem cells will soon be used in more wide-ranging fields. This is a good reason to preserve stem cells from baby teeth.

Can baby teeth stem cells be used to heal and repair from illness?

Stem cells from baby teeth can be used in stem cell therapy after they’ve been harvested once scientists can get them to multiply into enough cells to start building tissue. This medical technique is on the rise as more research is 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 that secrete insulin to cure diabetes
  • Replace cartilage, tissue, and bone
  • 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 the possibilities could continue to increase as more research is conducted.

Store a tooth UK

Why store milk teeth?

The main benefit of saving baby teeth is that it can give your child 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 conditions should increase.

Knowing your child’s stem cells are already stored will give you peace of mind. Rest assured 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 soring baby teeth for stem cells so they’re ready to use could give your child the best fighting chance if the doctors think 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. Everybody loses teeth naturally anyway, so it’s an excellent and non-invasive way of banking stem cells for your child and your family for future use in case anything should happen in the coming years.

Baby teeth storage

Is it easy to save baby teeth?

Deciding to save a child’s milk teeth is easy for some families. Saving baby teeth is relatively simple as you wait for them to fall out naturally and then use our professional facilities to store them properly. There are many genetic diseases passed on from generation to generation that are starting to respond to stem cell therapy.

Parents who know 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’re most viable, parents may increase the chances of successful stem cell treatments in the future.

Tooth banks

What is a tooth bank?

Tooth banks are a type of medical storage unit that takes teeth from donors across the UK. Onsite laboratories process the teeth and extract the stem cells before making sure they’re 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 if you need them.

How do you extract stem cells from a tooth?

Teeth are fully inspected to check they’re healthy and in good condition when they arrive at the laboratory before the technician can extract stem cells from the dental pulp. The tooth is disinfected, and the dental pulp is extracted from the main tooth. The dental pulp is the soft tissue found inside teeth.

This is the part that receives a blood supply from the gums and the part of the tooth that stores the stem cells. The soft tissue and the teeth cells inside are treated with a cryoprotectant, to help preserve the cells during freezing. The cells are then kept in medically inspected freezers, where they stay until they’re 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.

What’s 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 (HPCs). These are used primarily in the treatment of blood diseases like leukaemia and lymphoma.

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 (MSCs). Bone marrow also contains MSCs, but they’re inferior in quality compared to those in healthy teeth.

MSCs from milk teeth have the potential to be used in treatments for several other types of tissue and organs, such as muscle and skin, compared 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 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.

Why save baby teeth for stem cells?

Stem cells from baby teeth are particularly prized because evidence suggests that stem cells from younger donors have a higher 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’s the bonus that donating dental stem cells requires no special surgery or much effort. Simply let nature take its course and wait for your child to lose a milk tooth, rather than subjecting them to an invasive medical procedure. It’s 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.

How to store milk teeth

Storing milk teeth and stem cells is easy with Stem Protect. You can make an appointment even before your child’s baby teeth start to fall out. The process of storing milk teeth follows a few simple steps:

  • First, fill out a contact form online or give us a ring at 0800 211 8389. We’ll send you a storage agreement to sign and 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 done, please arrange for a courier to come to 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 can send the tooth to us any day, even on a weekend or holiday.
  • Your child’s milk teeth will be processed and stored safely for the duration of the agreement you signed up 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 is carefully and cryogenically preserved at temperatures of -150 degrees Celsius. So far there’s no reason to believe there’s 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, their cells will still be available in the event of any treatment or therapy they require.

How much are tooth banking costs?

Storing baby teeth or adult teeth is an elective procedure and is not covered by medical or health insurance. Tooth banking costs depend on the package you choose. There are different options according to how many teeth you want us to store and how long. Call or contact us online to discuss pricing options.

The actual cost will vary based on the length of time that the teeth are stored. 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.

Adult tooth stem cells banking

Can you store adult teeth stem cells?

If you’re an adult and wish to store your stem cells from your teeth with us, we provide banking services via dental pulp and adipose tissue. This could be storing wisdom teeth or any other adult teeth that have been extracted for orthodontic purposes.

Extra services from Stem Protect

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.

We understand that the storage of your stem cells is important. That’s why we have a business continuity guarantee. No matter what happens, rest assured that your cells will be well protected.

To date, Stem Protect has processed and stored more than 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.

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Processed and stored over 125,000 samples

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