Leaving it under the pillow is a popular option, but a Berwick dentist is now offering to remove a baby tooth and have its stem cells frozen for 30 years.
The catch? You will need to fork nearly £1,400 a tooth and there is no guarantee that it will be of any use.
With medical science continuing to advance, however, scientists are confident that they will be able to use the stem cells to develop new treatment options for various conditions in the future.
Up to now, the baby teeth being used by the firm carrying out the research, Precious Cells International, have mainly come from the London area.
North Northumberland and the Borders now has a chance to be included.
Brucegate Dental Practice in Berwick has been selected to be part of the pioneering work, providing the service for the north east of England and the Scottish Borders.
Dr Sarah Swales, who has owned the practice for three years, said: “Finding stem cells in teeth is quite new technology. In the next few years I’m sure this process, which currently costs £1,385 for 30 years storage, is going to become as common place as putting a pound coin under the pillow.”
The process begins with the dentist in Berwick removing a baby tooth and putting it into an isotonic solution, similar to that used for storing transplant organs.
The tooth is then transported to a laboratory near London, where the stem cells are extracted, frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored.
Stem cells are being studied in thousands of clinical trials designed to examine treatments for diverse health issues, from growing new teeth to treating diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Tests have yet to be carried out on humans , but scientists believe the stem cells from a baby tooth have great potential.
Dr Swales has taken an interest in the ongoing research ever since her six-year-old son William was diagnosed with a heart defect.
She added: “ I have a personal interest in this treatment as my son has a congenital heart defect which was treated surgically at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
“It made me aware of the serious things that can happen to you. I will be making sure that his tooth stem cells are stored in case he has future health problems where they can be used. You only get this chance once.”
Alastair Sloan, professor of bone biology & tissue engineering at Cardiff University, added: “We still don’t know fully what stem cells from teeth can do. We are closer, but the more research we do, the more questions we get.
“We are still learning about the biology and potential, but the cells unquestionably have huge potential
“We still need to learn how to grow them. The number of cells from one milk tooth is in the thousands. Many treatments may require millions, and we’d be able to use these cells only on the person who donated them.
“The cells have the potential to be used to regenerate damaged or diseased tissue, but it is not common practice right now. Advances in stem cell science hope to make it so.”