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There's a raft of claims recently that baby (or milk) teeth are are a rich source of stem cells and could be used in the future to help cure diseases to or regrow failed and damaged organs. These claims are encouraging parents to save their children's baby teeth.

For example, this 2013 article by a dentist in the Daily Mail:

What uses are there for the stem cells from such teeth?

They currently have no practical use, but that does not mean they don’t have the potential for clinical use in the future. Scientists have grown rodent teeth from deciduous-tooth stem cells already, so we know they have the potential to regenerate teeth. They can become bone cells, so could repair bone defects. But we are still learning about their biology and potential.

That said, the vast majority of first page hits on Google are all from companies offering to bank those teeth, suggesting that these claims may be driven by those with a profit motive rather than by very much scientific research:

Snopes has only a partial answer:

WHAT'S TRUE: Research shows that stem cells can be harvested from baby teeth and have potential dental and medical uses in repairing and regenerating tissues, and commercial facilities exist for the preservation and storage of dental stem cells for future use, at a price.

WHAT'S UNDETERMINED: Whether, to what degree, or when such potential uses for dental stem cells will actually come to pass.

Is there any definitive information supporting or refuting the claim?

As a followup, do companies offering services for storing baby teeth actually do anything more useful than a plastic box in the family keepsakes drawer?

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    I was just at a stem cell conference. Cord blood is what they all talk about. Never heard of teeth as a potential source. – fredsbend Dec 16 '16 at 17:50
  • An unrelated reason to keep teeth: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/607/… – Andrew Grimm Dec 18 '16 at 3:40
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    Your keepsakes drawer is probably room temperature, and therefore unsuitable. The cells need to be frozen, and while it's possible to freeze the entire tooth and still get viable stem cells, it's not as good as other methods (source). – Laurel Dec 18 '16 at 19:28
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    The author of the Daily Mail in the article is very careful not to make an actual claim that the stem cells will be useful. He is openly speculating about what might happen in the future. Snopes says exactly the same thing: no-one knows for sure what the future will bring. I am not sure what more you hope we can provide. What sort of evidence would convince you either way? – Oddthinking Dec 18 '16 at 22:28
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There is a 2015 review article Osteogenic Potential of Dental Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Preclinical Studies: A Systematic Review Using Modified ARRIVE and CONSORT Guidelines.:

Silvério et al. [51] in 2010 demonstrated deciduous derived PDLSCs promoted more mineral nodule formation compared to PDLSC derived from permanent teeth in vitro.

...

In summary, although selected studies showed dental stem cells have remarkable potential for use in bone regeneration, further well designed preclinical studies addressing optimal differentiating factors, culture medium, critical sized defect model, comparison of osteogenic potential of different dental progenitor cells, biological activity, cost effectiveness, efficacy, and safety of dental stem cells are required before clinical translation.

Several dental tissues identified by this review possessed dental MSCs with an osteogenic differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Regenerating lost bone tissue was feasible with dental MSCs. The easy accessibility to obtain dental MSCs made them an attractive alternative to BMMSCs for use in clinical trials to evaluate their safety and efficacy. However the current limitation, based on the quality of the literature, requires better designed in vitro or randomized control animal trials before going into clinical trials.

So there is no proof so far that baby teeth stem cells will be a safe and effective treatment. And there won't be for years because more experiments are needed before even starting human clinical trials.

As far as storage, according to the English abstract of Mesenchymal cells of the decidual tooth pulp: cytophenotype and initial evaluation of possibility of their use in bone tissue engineering:

Storage of decidual tooth pulp mesenchymal cells in the stem cell cryobanks together with umbilical blood will appreciably extent the periods of age for collection of juvenile autologous stem cells for use throughout the life span.

So, yes storage of the cells cryogenically it better than just having the teeth sit at room temperature.

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    A great answer, defining a timescale on the "maybe" to be a long way off yet as human trials aren't even there yet. Equally that the cryobanks are valid offerings - on the premise that the research will yield results. Thank you! – RemarkLima Dec 21 '16 at 22:00

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