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HealthWatch: Parents Having Baby Teeth Pulled, Stored For Stem Cells

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A doctor performs a dental exam at Children’s Hospital Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A doctor performs a dental exam at Children’s Hospital Oakland. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSSanFrancisco.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSSanFrancisco.com/Health

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – We’ve all heard stem cells hold great promise for curing disease. Now an easy new way to get stem cells has some people taking their children to the dentist to get their baby teeth pulled.

The newest way to extract stem cells requires having your child’s baby teeth pulled by a dentist, who then specially packages them and sends the teeth out to be cryogenically stored.

“It’s a very, very easy way to collect stem cells,” said dentist Ron Schefdore.

Brandi Bugel is storing the dental stem cells of her 9-year-old son, Kullin, with the hope they could one day be used to treat his Type 1 Diabetes. She signed up for a service called Store-A-Tooth.

“As a parent of a child with diabetes, you always want to grab on to any kind of hope you possibly can,” Bugel said.

Her son’s dentist, who’s also her employer, is one of the first dentists to offer the service.

“The research indicates right now that it’s good for spinal cord injuries, repairing a heart muscle, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease, a slew of other diseases just from dental stem cells,” Schefdore said.

Peter Verlander, the chief scientific officer of Store-A-Tooth, said research is very preliminary but parents should be given the option.

“They see the promise,” he said “And they would like to have all the tools available for their kids if and when they need them.”

There are skeptics.

“It’s always a shame to hear ‘potentially, potentially, potentially’ without any real scientific basis,” said Dr. John Kessler, the director of the Stem Cell Institute at Northwestern University.

He said possible applications for dental stem cells are limited. He also noted that the storage method, as well as their quantity and viability present other problems.

“To think that this stem cell offers that potential is not just a leap of faith, it’s a leap over the cliff,” Dr. Kessler explained.

Schefdore conceded it’s possible parents might get false hopes. But he added, “There’s no guarantee in anything in life.”

Still, parents like Bugel can’t help wondering: What if?

And they aren’t deterred by the cost — $650 to sign up, plus $10 a month for storage fees.

You can’t store baby teeth that have already fallen out. They must be pulled to ensure blood flow.

For adults, wisdom teeth can be stored as well, but no dental stem cells are currently being used anywhere but in the lab.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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