Sat, Sep 20, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Nation’s first tooth bank now open for business

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Medical University (TMU) opened the nation’s first tooth bank yesterday, with the goal of storing teeth for natural implants and providing a potential alternative source for harvesting and freezing stem cells.

Doctors touted the move and said it could eventually replace the umbilical cord blood bank recently publicized with a celebrity endorsement and advertising campaign.

COLLABORATIVE EFFORT

The tooth bank for permanent teeth is the result of cooperation between TMU and Hiroshima University in Japan, said Lee Sheng-yang (李勝揚), dean of the TMU School of Dentistry and chief executive officer of the new facility, the TMU Tooth Bank.

“The tooth bank can store healthy permanent teeth, such as wisdom teeth and molars, that were removed for better alignment,” he said. “The teeth can be stored for use later in life, such as when the patient has missing teeth and needs to undergo a tooth implant.”

JAPANESE EXPERIENCE

“Natural is best,” he said, explaining that using one’s own teeth can improve integration with the jawbone, shorten recovery time and lower costs.

Hiroshima University’s own tooth bank has seen a success rate of 87 percent for implanting natural teeth.

Other uses for stored teeth could include harvesting and freezing stem cells from the pulp, Lee said.

“You only get one chance to store [umbilical] cord blood and extracting bone marrow is a painful process,” so the tooth bank provides a good source of stem cells, Lee said.

“The stem cells can be used in bone, tissue and oral engineering procedures,” he said.

The process of storing a tooth starts with medical and dental examinations, because teeth from patients with illnesses such as diabetes, osteoporosis and drug addiction cannot be stored, he said.

SELECT HOSPITALS

Surgery would then be performed at a hospital or clinic that has signed a contract with TMU if the tooth is to be stored.

The cost of storing a tooth is NT$40,000 for two years, to be paid by the patient. After a tooth is removed, it will be stored at TMU at minus 130ºC to minus 196ºC.

A tooth can be stored for up to 40 years, Lee said.

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