Uses for Baby Teeth
Losing baby teeth is a rite of passage for nearly every person on earth. The process of shedding milk teeth typically starts occurring at around age six and can continue until age 14 or until the very last molar falls out. Overtime, adult teeth will fill the toothless smiles of children and the Tooth Fairy will amass a huge collection of deciduous teeth. Fortunately the devices do not have to take up space in her closet as there are actually practical uses for the primary teeth.
These days, up-cycling (as defined by Wikipedia) “…is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value,” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upcycling). Some organizations and creative minds are actually looking for saved baby teeth as they can be reused for the greater good.
Stem Cell Research
One of the most controversial medical advancements of the twenty-first century is stem cell research. The biological components are an integral part of all multicellular organisms and divide by mitosis. The right types of stem cells can act as a tabula rasa and can evolve to become any type of specialized cell in the human body. This particular branch of science can be used to grow new cells to replace damaged organs and diseased tissue including the skin, blood or internal group of cells and the science has the potential of repairing damaged bones, hearts, pancreases, muscles and brains overtime. Controversy surrounds stem cell progress as until recently the best source of the cells were human embryos, but baby teeth can change all that.
Worldwide researches have been experimenting with a variety of tissues for created stem cells from scratch and there are indications that extracted teeth such as baby teeth, wisdom teeth and adult teeth can do the job well.
The work is being fueled by the National Institutes of Health, when in 2003 the organization concluded and announced that teeth “are a rich source of stem cells,” (http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/17/2020617/pulled-teeth-stored-for-stem-cells.html). In 2008, Australian researches started hypothesizing that stem cells could be created from teeth. Since then, researchers in Japan have made progress and have successfully created the cells.
In 2010, the Gifu University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan released their success story regarding how they created stem cells in a laboratory setting. The research, published online in the Journal of Dental Research indicated that scientists produced five out of a total of six experiments courtesy of extracted teeth. The research developed the viable cells by working with the dental pulp in the pulled teeth.
More testing and science is still needed to get the full benefits of baby teeth, but that is not stopping dentists and parents from pulling and storing the choppers. The Miami Herald reported on the trend and indicated that the process is timely (it does not work on teeth lost years ago), expensive as the estimated costs are $590 upfront plus $100 a year for storage (four teeth for up to 20 years). Plus, the scientists involved in the research suggest that the practical applications of the technique are still decades away.
Measure Strontium-90 Levels
Radioactivity levels have been a health concern since the Trinity nuclear bomb was first detonated on July 16, 1945. It was that fear the prompted the creation of the “Tooth Fairy Project” from the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP). The organization collects baby teeth in order to analyze the levels of strontium-90, the cancer-causing radioactive isotope byproduct of nuclear activity including bombs, power plants and nuclear reactors.
The organization focuses its efforts specifically on baby teeth as “The chemical structure of Sr-90 is so similar to that of calcium that the body gets fooled and deposits Sr-90 in the bones andteeth where it remains, continually emitting cancer-causing radiation,” (http://www.radiation.org/projects/tooth_fairy.html). The RHPH now dedicates its efforts to collecting enough baby teeth in order to properly analyze the connection and determine “…determine whether nuclear weapons fallout and power reactors are affecting our public health and contributing to America’s cancer epidemic”. Parents interested in contributing their children’s teeth to the scientists can begin the process by completing the form found at http://www.radiation.org/projects/tooth_donation_form.html.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for some, nothing is more gorgeous than the remnants of their children’s smile. One such artist creating tooth jewelry is Polly van der Glas and she has been creating her wearable art since 2005. The jewelry line of the Melbourne-based designer includes rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings combining precious metals and teeth. The artist has also been known to work with hair and fingernails. Parents interested in having her create custom jewellery can start a conversation directly with the artist through her blog at http://vanderglas.blogspot.com/.
Parents looking for other alternative uses for baby teeth can feel free to have a dialogue with their dentist regarding the matter.