1. Widespread studies in recent years have shown the potential of harvesting stem cells from a new mother’s umbilical cord to treat leukemia and blood-related cancers. Now, many pediatric dentists are looking carefully at their young patients’ teeth, and harvesting stem cells that could be used in a host of both dental and medical applications.
2. The discovery of stem cells in dental pulp occurred in 2000, and the cells have since proven effective in treating periodontal disease and in regenerating jaw bone. These cells are now being studied for how they may someday play a role in treating everything from diabetes to liver disease to cardiovascular disease to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
3. “Parents are very interested in the possibility of identifying sources of stem cells from their child, and then harvesting and storing them so they might be able to use them to treat a yet-unforeseen condition,” says Dr. Joel Berg, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
4. While your child’s dentist doesn’t actually harvest the stem cells, he or she will properly handle the teeth to keep dental pulp intact before packaging and shipping the tooth to a lab for harvesting and storage.
5. “We’re doing the right thing in developing this technology. Dental stem cells may become cells that can heal your child. Science improves every year, and so does our understanding of what they can do. If a child develops a certain kind of cancer, they may be able to help kill the tumor and direct healthy cells to grow,” Dr. Berg says. “Whatever we think stem cells can do today is only going to improve with time.”