McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Giuseppe Intini, DDS, PhD, Associate Professor of Periodontics and Preventive Dentistry at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine, recently talked with Nicole Fabian-Weber of Care.com about the potential benefits of saving your child’s baby teeth for future medical needs. What Ms. Fabian-Weber learned is that, at this point, few experts are completely sold on the practice.
Why would parents want to bank their child’s baby teeth? The thoughts are that those teeth contain valuable stem cells which one day may be used to treat a future disease afflicting that child. Currently, there are no treatments available using the stem cells from baby teeth, but that could change in 20 years or so.
As Dr. Intini explains, regardless of their origin, stem cells are either totipotent, pluripotent, or multipotent. “Totipotent stem cells can generate any type of cell,” Dr. Intini says. “Pluripotent cells can generate all cells except the placenta, the amniotic sac, and the umbilical cord (meaning a cell from the embryo can become anything from liver to hair cells but cannot fully generate another human being if transplanted in a host womb), and multipotent stem cells have the ability to develop into a limited type of cells. Teeth, it looks like, are multipotent.”
According to Dr. Intini, research is currently suggesting that there are stem cells in baby teeth — “suggesting” being key. “Right now, it appears — meaning, science is showing some evidence — that there are multipotent stem cells in teeth,” says Dr. Intini. “Keep in mind, though, this is all preclinical, and research has been done mostly with mice and rats. To really say teeth can produce stem cells that can be used for clinical application, we need clinical trials and right now there are very few.”
StemSave, a New York City-based baby teeth bank, offers families the opportunity to save doctor-extracted baby teeth for future use. Fees include an initial recovery and processing fee and an annual storage fee.