SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Dentists and oral surgeons in San Diego are promoting the practice of harvesting stem cells when people get their wisdom teeth out.
They say it's a way for patients to bank some potentially life-saving stem cells without needing any extra surgery.
"These stem cells are completely viable," explains Dr. Paul Koshgerian with the Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Specialists of San Diego. "There are a number of different research-related fields that are driving towards figuring out exactly how we can use them."
ABC 10News first reported on the idea of pulling stem cells from wisdom teeth in 2019. Since then, doctors say the practice has become more common, easier, and more effective.
Stem cell therapy is a relatively new field of medicine. Doctors are discovering ways to coach the cells to become different parts of the body to help treat diseases like cancers and diabetes.
"Say, for example, you've developed some sort of leukemia or heart problem. Well, we could then coach those stem cells to become the type of cells that that future patient might need," says Stanford Dr. Michael Longaker.
Dr. Koshgerian's office has done a couple of dozen wisdom teeth extractions already this year, partnering with a company called Stemodontics to harvest the stem cells.
Lauren Wallerstedt is one of those patients. She says her aunt died from a lung and heart disease called Alpha 1, which she also has. Wallerstedt looks at banking stem cells like a life insurance policy.
"I was always looking for a way out, or a way that I can help myself to live just a little bit longer for my family," she says. "I figured if anything happens in my life, then I can use those as a backup plan before a lung transplant."
"It's just a wonderful way for us to give back," says Dr. Koshgerian. "We can try to help people for the long term."