A lot has changed in the world of child-raising in the past few decades. In 1992, when Cryo-Cell International first began banking “cord blood” (the blood extracted from a newborn’s umbilical cord at birth and then frozen), many people thought the idea seemed too out-there and futuristic to bother with. It was also unproven, expensive and not widely available.
Today there are over 450 cord blood banks around the world, storing an estimated 500,000 known samples in the United States alone. In fact, the cord blood storage industry has become a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide. But now, a new tissue storage field has come onto the scene: wisdom tooth banking. But what is it, and how important is it – especially if you’ve already banked your child’s cord blood?
“What they’re harvesting in the wisdom teeth is not actually the teeth themselves, but the tiny bit of tissue that contains valuable stem cells,” says Wexford, Pennsylvania, dentist Dr. Alexandra George. “Those stem cells are then stored and can be used much like cord blood can be.”
Wisdom-teeth banking companies claim the tissue preserved from banking wisdom teeth could possibly be used for everything from regenerating damaged nerves to even regenerating muscle and bone. It could also help treat type-1 diabetes, or even regrow damaged organs. That’s because the teeth contain something called mesenchymal stem cells, which can regrow many different types of tissues in the human body.
“Whereas cord blood can be used to treat cancers and blood disorders, these mesenchymal cells can be used to treat some overlapping illnesses, but they can also possibly treat new things cord blood can’t,” says George.
Another benefit to banking wisdom teeth, of course, is that there are people who missed the opportunity to bank their child’s cord blood, either because it was not available or they were unable to do so for other reasons.
“It’s kind of like getting a second opportunity to have that added security,” says George. “Maybe 15 years ago cord blood banking wasn’t an option for you, but your 15-year-old needs his wisdom teeth out now. This gives you a second chance to store those cells for him in case he needs them in the future.”