Guilty Mothers Rejoice! The Tooth Fairy May Be Able To Bank Your Baby’s Stem Cells After Birth

Those umbilical cord banking commercials make me feel incredibly guilty.  They begin with an adorable child in a perfectly healthy family who falls seriously ill without a warning.  The child would die without treatment and the only thing that can save her is the perfect, untainted match of her own cells.  Thankfully, these parents planned ahead by saving her umbilical cord blood.  They live happily ever after.   There’s one catch — if you don’t pony up for the procedure while pregnant, you miss your chance.

Currently the most common way to save these invaluable stem cells is at birth.  Doctors retrieve blood from the umbilical cord of your newborn baby and save it for decades.  In the unlikely event your child gets sick, these stem cells can reportedly treat certain types of cancer, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and juvenile diabetes.  I’ve lived with the guilt of not banking cord blood twice and cringe to think what I would do to save a sick child.   Now, a dentist in the UK might be offering guilty mothers like me a second chance.

When dentist Callum Graham removed the loose front tooth of his seven-year-old daughter in his Glasgow dental office, unlike any regular dad, he was making history.  The Grahams have become one of the first families to have stem cells banked using “milk teeth” – or baby teeth.  The dental pulp from these teeth will be extracted, frozen and stored for what scientists expect could be decades.

While the use for dental cells is currently limited to treatments for periodontal disease and regenerating dental bone, the Grahams expect much more from this procedure.

Teeth are an ‘incredible source’ of stem cells, Mr Graham said, and researchers are studying how they could be used to treat a number of diseases and conditions including diabetes, spinal cord injuries, stroke and liver problems.

Mother, Heather Graham, may not have been able to perform the procedure, but she had no doubt about the importance of saving her daughter’s milk teeth.

‘I knew I wanted to keep her teeth to bank them because with the progress that science has made now, and the things that stem cells can do at the moment, who knows what it’s going to be like in 10 years, 20 or 30 years.

Since the child would be loosing the tooth anyway, this method offers a path that is just as easy and simple as cord blood banking.  And it might come at a more opportune time, when your child is six or seven-years-old rather than during pregnancy.  When you are expecting the last thing you want to prepare for is the future possibility of your child having a life-threatening illness.  With your first child you are too busy debating the usefulness of a wipes warmer and painting the nursery the perfect shade of green.   After that your first, you are busy worrying about how you will juggle yet another addition to your already chaotic family.  Pregnancy is a time of happiness as you dream of seeing your family grow in a way only mother nature can dictate.   Advances in stem cell collection might offer parents blinded by that joy a second chance to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

(photo: jean schweitzer / Shutterstock)

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