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Teeth -- The Next Frontier Of Stem Cell Development?

(CBS) -- The tradition of saving a baby tooth for the Tooth Fairy is being challenged these days.

More studies suggest baby and wisdom teeth should be banked for future health needs.

CBS 2'S Dorothy Tucker reports on a growing gamble parents are taking to save their children's lives.

Edyta Gromotowicz is saving her daughter's baby teeth -- in hopes of saving her life.

The last tooth 7-year-old Maya lost was sent to the lab Provia, where the stem cells were extracted, frozen and stored.

"There's exciting research being done right now, using dental stem cells, in particular for all types of regenerative medicine," Provia's Carolyn Russell says.

In the last year, research on dental cells shows promise in treating everything from heat stroke to nerve damage to corneal scarring. If Maya should ever develop these conditions doctors could use the cells from her stored teeth.

"I hope she will never need it, but in case when she's way older those cells can be used to treat the disease," Gromotowicz says.

Oral surgeon Dr. Robert Wolf recommends the option for young patients losing baby teeth and older ones having wisdom teeth removed.

"Typically you only need one tooth," he says. "The whole purpose and the whole reason this works is that we're able to preserve viable tissue, and tissue is viable when it's healthy, when it's in the mouth."

Jessica Kugler is preserving stem cells from her wisdom tooth.

"I had a spinal tumor before. It might be helpful if something dangerous happened to me again in the future," she says.

Storing dental cells at Provia labs can cost about $1,700 up-front, plus an annual fee of $120.

Dr. John Cunningham is among the medical experts who acknowledge the potential of stem cells but question if banking them now is worth it.

"It's likely that we will have much more effective ways of developing stem cells that may not require a tooth stem cells or any other kind of stem cells," Cunningham says.

There are at least eight companies competing for your baby's teeth and your dollars.

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