Losing baby teeth is an exciting milestone in a child's life, and many parents want to remember the occasion. Children typically lose their first teeth between the ages of 5 and 7, but some may lose them prematurely due to injury. Many parents choose to save their children's baby teeth as mementos. Scientists also believe that stem cell recovery from the marrow in baby teeth may hold possible cures for diseases, so many parents save their children's baby teeth for this purpose.
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Teeth Knocked Out Prematurely
Take the child and the tooth to a dentist immediately if a baby tooth was knocked out prematurely. The tooth must be cleaned properly for the best odds of reinserting the tooth in the mouth. You must rinse it with saline solution or milk to protect the root. According to KidsHealth, an information site sponsored by the Nemours Foundation, tap water is undesirable when cleaning a tooth that may be reinstalled in the mouth; the chlorine in tap water may damage the root. Place the clean tooth in a plastic bag and take it with the child to an emergency room or dentist.
Gently clean the tooth with soap and water if you want to save the tooth as a memento. Brush rubbing alcohol over the tooth surfaces with a cotton swab to disinfect it. Dry the tooth with a clean towel. Teeth do not deteriorate significantly over time, but cleaning them will prevent any bacteria from growing on the tooth. Place the clean, dry tooth in a small container or memory book for storage.
Stem Cell Use
Allow a dentist to handle it if you are banking the tooth for stem cells. A 2003 study led by Dr. Songtao Shi at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research found that baby teeth contain one to two dozen stem cells. These stem cells may have later use in treating disease. Some parents have begun banking their children's baby teeth through services such as Bioeden and Store-a-Tooth, which charge annual fees for tooth storage. According to Store-a-Tooth literature, teeth to be used for stem cell storage should be removed by a dentist, who will process them appropriately for preservation.
- American Dental Association: Shining Smiles
- Tooth Fairy: Facts about Baby Teeth
- Store-A-Tooth: Frequently Asked Questions
- KidsHealth: First Aid: Tooth Injury
- "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences": Baby Teeth Stem Cells; National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; Songtao Shi, DDS; 2003