Health Beat

Health Beat: Banking baby teeth: Life insurance?

BALTIMORE - 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. As part of the process, we learned about this tooth storage opportunity," said Janette Fennell.

"With baby teeth, you know you're getting a small amount of tissue that has these stem cells in them," said Dr. Jason Bresler, a pediatric dentist who offers the tooth banking service to patients.

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," Bresler continued.

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. It's much like insurance, but instead of it being a death benefit, it's a life-giving benefit," said Greig Fennell

There is an initial processing fee for tooth storage of between $850 and $1,750, depending upon the option families choose. The annual storage fee is about $120, or $10 a month.


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