LITTLETON, Massachusetts – Janette and Grieg Fennell eat right and live a healthy lifestyle.
But good health is something their family never takes for granted. So the Fennells were intrigued by an idea proposed by their dentist when their youngest was 15.
"He needed to get his wisdom teeth extracted," explained Janette Fennell. "As part of the process, we learned about this tooth storage opportunity."
Jason Bresler is a pediatric dentist who offers the tooth banking service to patients.
"With baby teeth, you know you're getting a small amount of tissue that has these stem cells in them," said Dr. Bresler.
There is an initial processing fee for tooth storage of between $850 and $1,750 dollars plus an annual storage fee of about $120 a year.
Dentists extract a tooth before it falls out. The tooth is preserved in a special solution, packed in ice, and shipped to a facility where the teeth are processed and stem cells are stored.
Teeth are a good source of special stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells that can form into tissues like nerves, muscles, and even bone. These cells have been important in regenerative medicine.
"In the future it could be used to treat nerve damage from a car accident, or replacement of an organ, or treatment of type 1 diabetes," Dr. Bresler explained.
STORE-A-TOOTH: Parents now have the option of banking their children`s teeth as another option to save stem cells for possible future medical needs. Store-A-Tooth is a service of Provia Labs that involves extracting, processing, and storing children`s stem cells from their baby teeth. A tooth collection kit is shipped to the parents to submit the sample. It includes all materials needed to protect and transport the sample to their lab, and can store up to four teeth. If the child has a scheduled extraction, parents can bring the kit with them and coordinate pick up from the practice location. In the event their child is losing baby teeth, the kit can be overnighted the day the child`s tooth comes out. Once it arrives at the facility it is processed and the stem cells are maintained in a cryopreserved state at the facility until the day they are needed and issued to the person`s healthcare provider. (Source: Store-A-Tooth-Family-Information-Packet-2016, www.store-a-tooth.com)
An Indiana company, The Tooth Bank, also provides the same service.
The Fennells are banking on medical advances in the future giving their son a healthcare advantage someday if he would need it.
"It's a contingency plan," said Greig Fennell. "It's much like insurance but instead of it being a death benefit it's a life-giving benefit."