Losing the first tooth is something of a rite of passage for kids everywhere. It’s a sign that you’re growing up and getting bigger! And if you’re like a lot of families, it also means a little cash under your pillow in the morning from the “tooth fairy.”
If you grew up to have kids of your own, you may have even taken on the time-honored role of the tooth fairy and slipped some money under your kids’ pillows to celebrate this new stage in their lives.
But what do you do with the tooth after you swap it out for a dollar? Some people keep them as sentimental keepsakes, but many simply toss them. After all, what can a shed baby tooth do for you?
Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.
A study in 2003 showed that baby teeth are a rich source of stem cells, which are like protocells that can be grown into multiple kinds of cells if needed.
That means that if later in life, a child needs replacement tissue for whatever reason, the stem cells from their baby teeth can be used to grow the needed tissue. Pretty amazing!
Potentially, the practice of storing baby teeth could save lives and treat a variety of ailments. Read on to learn more about this amazing process.
Losing baby teeth, or deciduous teeth as they’re properly known, is a rite of passage for kids everywhere. According to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, most kids lose their first baby tooth around age six and their final baby tooth around age 12.
Most of us can remember that first little wiggle that let us know a change was coming, and then the weird absence of a tooth when it finally fell out.
But what do we remember the most? The promise of a cash reward, courtesy of the tooth fairy!
The tradition of the tooth fairy goes back pretty far (some believe the idea of a tooth fairy dates back to the 13th century).
Some link it back to old Norse culture, where baby teeth were considered good luck.
Other cultures around the world also have specific traditions involving baby teeth. In some cultures, kids throw their baby teeth in the air or onto the ground. In other cultures, kids bury their baby teeth.
As it turns out, baby teeth really can bring good fortune, but in a more scientific sense. In 2003, a study determined those baby teeth contain stem cells that, if preserved quickly after falling out, can be stored for years and kept in case of later medical problems in life.
Getting a dollar or two from the tooth fairy for a baby tooth is pretty cool, but getting the chance to grow heart cells from an old tooth? Now that’s awesome.
To preserve the stem cells, the baby teeth have to be kept fresh. Like anything, stem cells degrade and lose their potency over time.
Unfortunately, simply keeping your child’s baby teeth in a box isn’t going to cut it.
Instead, parents can use services like Store-A-Tooth to properly preserve their children’s teeth. To use the Store-A-Tooth service, you will need to coordinate with your dentist before your child’s teeth come out.
Your dentist with work with the Store-A-Tooth staff to safely ship your child’s teeth, where the stem cells will be stored for potential future use (though hopefully they’ll never be needed).
The stem cells are extracted from the teeth and placed in a liquid nitrogen cryopreservation vault, where they will remain intact and usable for years.
If later in life, the child needs their stem cells, the samples are taken out of storage and shipped to their doctor.
Store-A-Tooth is a bit of an investment, but it’s worth the cost to know that your child’s stem cells will always be on hand in the case of a medical emergency. Plus, your kids will probably think it’s cool that their teeth are stored in a vault!
It seems like all the cultures that had superstitions about the power of baby teeth were, in a strange way, actually onto something!
If you’d like to know more about storing baby teeth for your kids or grandkids, check out the Store-A-Tooth website for more information.
Next time your child loses a tooth, keep this fascinating company in mind.