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A Whole Other Kind of Tooth Fairy: Stem Cells In Baby Teeth and Wisdom Teeth

Did you save those teeth?

You know how when you’re pregnant you get all those pamphlets about banking cord blood? Deciding whether or not to bank cord blood felt so heavy. If we didn’t, which we didn’t, were we being cheap? Foolish? Cynical? Overly Optimistic? Whatever we were the decision’s been made and I haven’t thought about it for years.

Then the other day I got an email announcing parents who didn’t bank cord blood have “second chance” by banking baby teeth which have stem cells in their pulp.

Which is great because I don’t have the four teeth (a fifth was swallowed) my kids have already lost.  What are you supposed to do with baby teeth anyway if you don’t bank them for stem cells? Should you bank them?

In a novel I read earlier this year, a couple is murdered and their 20-ish daughter, with whom they have a fairly distant relationship, finds a small jar marked with her name with all but one of her baby teeth in it.  She remembers the one that was lost.  It’s a starkly beautiful moment, collapsing a parent-child connection into one simple metaphor that’s not a photo from a vacation.  Ever since reading it, though, I feel like I need two small jars for my kids’ baby teeth. But I don’t have two small jars and, as you know, they would be empty anyway since I have no idea where those itty bitty bits of bone are.

And now the news of stem cells in baby teeth added a bit of practical urgency to my inability to keep track of the teeth that aren’t in my kids’ mouth.

I did a little poking around online and I found that there is new stem cell research into sthe pulp of teeth, and while you can bank baby teeth, there are also stem cells in the pulp of wisdom teeth.  While the teeth do need to be stored after extraction for the cells to be viable, the cells from wisdom teeth are very useful, medically speaking.

For me this means a world of second and third chances.  I may have lost some baby teeth already, but at least there are wisdom teeth to look forward to.  Who knows what the science will be by the time my kids have to get their wisdom teeth out (I had mine out at 18), but since we probably won’t store baby teeth now, maybe I’ll remember that we can store them then.

What do you do with you kids’ baby teeth?  Do you save them? Would you bank them for stem cells?

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