Doctors are urging all parents to hold on to their kid's baby teeth after the tooth fairy comes to visit -- and not for sentimental reasons.
According to a recent study, baby teeth contain an abundance of stem cells, a very special type of cell that can potentially grow replacement tissue in the body and cure a number of diseases.
"Stem cells have this fancy term," Dr. Schmidt, a microbiology professor at Medical University of South Carolina, told WCIV. "They are called pluripotent which is code for they just make more. And when you add the right chemical combination to those stem cells you can expand them, you can grow as many as you need."
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If collected and properly stored, baby teeth could be used to potentially treat and cure a life-threatening illness a child or a close family member could develop years down the road.
"That day is not too far in the future," Schmidt said. "We will probably see it with our lifetimes where we will be able to dial a gene and figure out how we can fix what's wrong with us."
The option is reportedly appealing for many parents who missed their chance at having stem cells from their child's umbilical cord stored at birth, a growing trend for parents in the past few decades.
"Baby teeth just happen to be that one extra place that we can recover them," Schmidt continued. "Cord blood is great, but if you can get them from baby teeth so much the better because you don't have to bank them at the day you are born. You can actually wait until the teeth grow out."
Landon Sears, a dental student at the Medical University of South Carolina, told WCIV that the easiest way for parents to store stem cells from dental DNA is to be proactive in scheduling an appointment with the child's dentist when the tooth is close to falling out.
"The most common way is there are a number of labs that will send the dentist or patient a kit with preserving liquid to keep the tissue alive," Sears said. "They just send it to a lab and eventually they store the teeth for you."
"It may not seem like a big deal losing a baby tooth," Sears added. "But if you need a regenerative tissue procedure way down the road for an organ replacement or some type of surgery it could literally make the difference in a person's life."