PETALUMA, Calif. (KTVU) - When wisdom teeth are extracted, most of the time those teeth are considered medical waste and thrown out. Some patients want to keep them as a keepsake.
Now, there is an alternative being offered by a few newly-developed companies, including one based in the Bay Area.
Stemodontics is a Petaluma-based company that offers to harvest the wisdom teeth for stem cells, which are then stored.
"This new option is, we can send them to Stemodontics and they can cryogenically preserve them after they've harvested the pulp of the teeth, which is the source of the stem cells," said Dr. Scott Fross, a Menlo Park-based oral surgeon.
Fross just had his first patient use the service this summer and has two others planning to do the same.
The company was co-founded by a stem cell researcher at UCSF, Ophir Klein, who said after the teeth are taken out, they are shipped to a lab in the Midwest.
"When they arrive, the technicians immediately crack open the teeth and remove the pulp, which is the soft, living part of the inside of the tooth. From that they remove the stem cells," said Klein.
Jill Wieck, a Redwood City mother of five, heard about the new option while researching wisdom teeth extraction for her oldest child.
On Friday, her 13-year-old daughter will not only have her wisdom teeth taken out, but the teeth will also be harvested for stem cells.
"If she ever encounters any medical issues, I want her to have every fighting chance," said Wieck.
Stemodontics said it costs about $2,000 for the stem-cell extraction and then $22 a month for storage.
The company said it's careful about what it promises customers, saying there are known benefits for stem cells to help with dental and bone repair, but said clinical trials show a lot of potential for more uses in the future.
According to Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, the director of UCSF's stem cell program, some scientists discourage patients from storing stem cells because there is no known application, adding while great for research, there is no therapeutic use yet.
"I hope she never ever has to use them, but I feel better that they're there," said Wieck.