Promising hope: DENTAL STEM CELL

Dr. Bhavneet Kaur
Do you remember being told by your parents or grandparents of a tooth fairy who came to take away your milk tooth when it was removed so as to gift you with good luck for your future? Today, we know these tooth fairies were just fables that our parents, grandparents and great grand parents created in our minds. But few days back as I was going through the latest literature I realized perhaps such tooth fairies do exist who come and take away our teeth when it is extracted only to gift us good health for our future. Interestingly, with the advancement of technology we have been able to re create these tooth fairies in reality and research advices us to bank our milk teeth with these modern day tooth fairies.
So what are these modern day tooth fairies and how do they gift us health for future? In a modern-day version of a tooth-fairy, dental stem-cell banking is a bio-insurance offering a non-invasive source of stems-cells that could be used in medical ailments, promising hope to shield one and one’s family from critical health concerns that may arise in the future. Stem cells are the body’s “master” cells that regenerate the body’s many cells, tissues, and organs.
Stem-cells are set to take the centre-stage of healthcare. Though in its infancy, the use of stem-cells in regenerative medicine is being globally researched.  Stem cells have become the rage across the world after the health potential emerged some years ago. Medical research has established that stem cell therapies have the potential to treat cancer, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and other conditions such as liver cirrhosis, paralysis, bone disorders like osteoarthritis, blood-related diseases like leukaemia, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s and many other such impairments, and thus, help alleviate suffering and help improve quality of life. In case of accidents leading to bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon, spinal cord injury, these stem cells can be used for their restoration. They can also be used in cosmetic treatments such as hair loss, skin grafting and tooth tissue regeneration.
There are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. The late 20th century witnessed innumerable successful applications of the stem cell therapy. This gave impetus to the approach of banking of stem cells as a tiny investment preserving their children’s stem cells at the time of the delivery through umbilical cord which could later be reproduced rapidly for future use. However, most of us have not had their cord stem cells banked and may come to think of it as a missed opportunity.
The good news is that  researchers have now made it possible to extract stem cells from the milk teeth of children and the wisdom teeth and other healthy teeth of young adults, so that each of us can reap the benefits of stem cell therapies. Stem cell banks not only freeze cord stem cells but also dental stem cells.
Researchers have discovered a rich source of adult stem cells in teeth. It has been found that deciduous teeth or the so-called milk teeth and wisdom teeth have an abundance of stem cells. Dental stem cells are found in the dental pulp (soft tissue inside the tooth). They are mesenchymal in nature and are multipotent i.e have the potential to regenerate different tissues like bone, muscle, nerve, fat, tooth, cartilage and pancreas. Any disease or condition which damages these tissues has the potential to be repaired by dental stem cells. Eg diabetes, damaged heart, stroke, arthritis, grow a new tooth, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dental stem-cells involve removing cells from a healthy tooth by a dentist, collecting, processing and storing the “pulp” in a lab equipped to preserve it. Dental stem cell banking has many advantages over cord stem cell banking. First, they can be obtained most conveniently and cause no harm and loss to the individual as the milk teeth are lost naturally anyways. Second, every child has 20 milk teeth so there are 20 chances to obtain viable stem cells. This is unique to dental stem cell banking. Dental stem cell banking offers multiple opportunities for collection of samples. Every adult has 4 wisdom teeth, hence 4 chances to bank stem cells. For children over the age of 12 years and for teens the opportunity to bank dental stem cells again arises when they are undergoing any orthodontic procedures where healthy teeth are removed to apply braces, etc as premolar teeth and any other permanent teeth removed for these purposes too are rich sources of stem cells. But the rule in all cases – the tooth needs to be extracted when healthy and uncontaminated. Unlike embryonic stem cells, dental stem cell banking is ethical and perfectly legal.
Once stem cells are obtained from teeth they can be cryo preserved for many years to retain their regenerative potential. The individual can use them when ever required. Using one’s own stem cells means a much lower risk of rejection by the body. Moreover, the stem cells can also be made available for stem cell transplants even to the siblings of the individual who had banked his/her stem cells, as siblings share a 25 per cent probability of a perfect genetic match..
Accidents, incurable illnesses, lifestyle diseases, genetic disorders strike when least expected. How badly then one would wish such instances could be reversible! It is only that hope for cure, to be able to lead a normal life again that can bring happiness. This hope has been relived by stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine.


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