LUBBOCK, Texas — On Thursday, Lubbock teen David Windisch decided he would have four of his wisdom teeth removed. Instead of throwing them away, however, Windisch decided he would have them sent to a lab called Stemodontics.

Specialists at the lab will extract stem cells from the pulp of his wisdom teeth. Dr. Robert Ioppolo, of Oral and Facial Surgeon at Hill and Ioppolo Oral & Dental Implant Surgery of Lubbock, said he offers to have wisdom teeth sent to the lab to every patient who gets their wisdom teeth removed.

“They’re going to take the teeth there and open them, access the inside aspect of the tooth where the nerve tissue is and then the multiply that through a speicalized process, and they preserve them long term for a patient who may need stem cells in the future,” Ioppolo said.

Winidisch said he has done his research on what can be done with stem cells extracted from teeth. He said he decided to send them off to a lab in case he ever suffers a back injury or develops Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“Studies have shown that there’s good results related to stem cell treatment and nervous tissue,” Windisch said.

Ioppolo said Windisch is an ideal candidate. It is better to have stem cells banked from wisdom teeth at a young age — during a patient’s teenage years or early adulthood.

“Both the quantality and the quality of them is much better than we can harvest from any other source,” Ioppolo said. “As the patient ages, the tooth actually changes inside and becomes more dentin and less pulp.”

Banking stem cells can be a major investment. As stem cell research continues to expand, the cells could have the potential to be used to treat cancer, diabtetes and heart disease. It could even repair bone cartilage and brain tissue.

Dr. Michael Longaker, a co-director for the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative medicine at Stanford University, said 10 million wisdom teeth are discarded every year.

“But you’re really banking on where the field’s going in the next 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 decades,” Longaker said.