Tooth banking: Is the next wave in stem cell treatment right for - KCTV5

Tooth banking: Is the next wave in stem cell treatment right for you?

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It's just another option out there for parents to mull over. Could someone in your family one day be saved because you bank what most parents simply put under a pillow? (KCTV5) It's just another option out there for parents to mull over. Could someone in your family one day be saved because you bank what most parents simply put under a pillow? (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

It's just another option out there for parents to mull over. Could someone in your family one day be saved because you bank what most parents simply put under a pillow?

“You're terrified already,” says Ashley Cray who’s expecting her fourth child.

Cray can sympathize with what first-time parents are going through.

“They say don't use bumpers but every store sells bumpers. It's like constantly, you don't know and then your mom is going, 'Oh put them on their tummy that's what I did.' ... 'No put them on the back.' It's always something," Cray said.

For years now, the debate over*banking your cord blood has raged on. And now, add tooth banking, another possibility, to that list.

Websites like www.toothbank.com and www.store-a-tooth.com tout the potentials, claiming"no parent wants their children to get sick or become disease stricken. So take advantage of medical benefits today that can provide cutting-edge treatments for tomorrow." And "this exploding field of research holds the promise that your child, utilizing a toolkit of their own stem cells, will live a life of unprecedented wellness."

But doctors KCTV5 News spoke to say not so fast.

“There's a lot of things to think about with those fragile potentially life-saving stem cells, and parents have a lot of questions about them,” said Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas City.

Burgert is also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While she says cord blood is of significant value, for her, personally, it's still not enough to warrant banking it.  She and her husband decided to donate theirs but understand why some patients want to keep theirs for themselves.

“There are some parents who really like to be proactive -- proactive for the lightning strike is kind of what I say - like the thought of you having to use those  and being able to successfully use them are probably as rare as a lightning strike. If that brings you peace, and you have the means ... of course that's an option for your family,” Burgert says.

But as for banking teeth? That's not something she's going to recommend to her patients anytime soon because the science just isn't there yet.

"I think an important difference here is that those cells are not the same type of stem cells that are from cord blood. And a lot of the marketing material that you may see from teeth harvesting is really kind of misleading,” Burgert says.

For example, if your child or family member turned up with some sort of blood cancer, which is a common reason to turn to stem cell storage, Burgert says you won't get any help from banked teeth.

“Those stem cells that can be extracted from teeth are called mesenchymal, which means they can only be bone, fat or cartilage. They can't be blood cells. They can't be endocrine cells, unlike cord blood stem cells which would have that potentiality," Burgert said.

With cord blood, a blood sample is taken from the cord at birth and that's it. With teeth banking, it takes several teeth that will have to be pulled at just the right time without any guarantee you hit at the right time.

"You're  scheduling extractions to be able to get rid of the teeth before they fall out of their mouth in order to be able to get the pulp in time and make sure that it's salvageable. So no more tooth fairy. No more biting into an apple and having that unexpected surprise of those baby teeth naturally falling out. It's a very calculated event,” Burgert says.

And if your kids were nervous about going to the dentist before, watch out.

"There will be increased anxiety at the dentist if every time you go you have to have a tooth pulled! That would be very difficult for me to do to my children to put them through that,” Burgert says.

But more than anything she says, it comes down to science and the fact that we simply don't know enough to warrant the cost -- usually starting around $1,000.

What would Burgert recommend?

“So if I'm going to pick, I'm still going to be storing my cord blood rather than doing dental banking with what we know today," she said.

The other thing to think about with banking anything is honesty. You have no way of knowing whether what you’re paying to have stored is where it’s supposed to be.

A couple of Burgert’s patients have had banks go out of business, leaving those people scrambling trying to find something else, fast and affordable.

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