Some people like to keep any teeth that have fallen out or been removed for sentimental value, but most have not considered that their teeth could save their life in the future.
However, according to dentist Dr J Peter St Clair, this is exactly what could happen.
He told the Amesbury News that teeth contain stem cells, the body's basic building blocks. They have the ability to renew themselves and can turn into other types of cells, making them of great interest to scientists.
Much research is done on stem cells to develop future regenerative therapies and treatments for disease, but actually getting hold of them can be tricky.
One way is to take embryonic stem cells, which are only available when a fetus is in the womb, so this is currently illegal. Doctors can also obtain stem cells from bone marrow, which is invasive, expensive and painful. By contrast, dental pulp stem cells can be found in both primary and adult teeth and are relatively easy to extract.
"Each of us has unique and irreplaceable stem cells within the dental pulp of our teeth. As research emerges these cells will become more and more useful to repair problems we have as we get older," Dr St Clair explained.
However, he warned that harvesting the cells can be expensive, costing around $800 for the preservation process and $125 per year storage fee.
Scientists believe stem cells could be used to treat Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other diseases.
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