Buying teeth online: students look for another option

TeethAfter getting accepted into dental school I received instructions from my school to start collecting extracted teeth. I dropped off several jars full of diluted bleach at dental clinics even before I started dental school. At this time I had no idea why I was being asked to collect decayed and rotten teeth.

In the blink of an eye I was a 2nd year dental student taking a pre-clinical endodontics laboratory course digging through hundreds of teeth and taking x rays to find the ideal ones to practice Non Surgical Root Canal Treatment (NSRCTx).

While I was doing so, I came across several stressed out seniors searching for teeth for their state licensure exams. One night, after ordering my books online, I randomly looked up “extracted teeth.” I found several websites, based all across the globe, selling extracted human teeth. Surprisingly, none of these websites mentioned how the teeth were acquired and whether they were collected for sale ethically upon receiving patient consent. Only a few of them stated the manner in which the teeth were handled and disinfected, since technically they are classified as a biohazard.

I understand that human and animal specimens and organs are available and used for educational, research and pharmaceutical purposes. The sale and distribution of these products is tightly regulated by agencies such as the state anatomical boards and the office of medical investigator. Teeth are also a part of the human body and are and should be considered as an “organ”. They allow forensic experts and forensic odontologists to identify decomposed and burnt human corpses and facilitate criminal investigations. Sale of human teeth by these websites in such an unregulated fashion may provide great convenience for dental students preparing for preclinical labs and licensure exams. There is an immediate need for some sort of regulation restricting such sales by individuals who are trying to profit off of someone else’s body part or an “organ.” As future leaders and advocates for patient’s rights and welfare, I believe that this is an impressing issue that requires immediate attention both nationally and internationally. From the dental student perspective, we need to understand the ethical implications that surround purchasing teeth abroad. Chances are, if this isn’t legal in the United States, we should not be purchasing them. Additionally, professors would not support such sales if they knew students were purchasing test-case-teeth online. It would definitely ease my mind knowing that the teeth I practice on were extracted for ethically sound reasons, with patient consent and proper preservation. It seems worth the time and effort to distribute jars to local oral surgeons knowing that the teeth were obtained right and justly, rather than supporting a website business that is unethical.

~Supreet Arora, Baylor ’15

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About Surpreet Arora

Surpreet Arora is a third year dental student at TAMU Baylor College of Dentistry. He served as the past ASDA Lunch & Learn Coordinator at his school.

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Comments (7)

  1. sam

    its sad to see human teeth are sold online.i dont know how long this goes but i googled to see how many online stores are selling teeth and im really stunned to see this particular company bforbones international is selling teeth in a pack of 50.

    i dont know how they are able to collect this many teeth?

    Reply
  2. clark

    i think online stores like bforbones cannot withstand without the support of dental students who buy extracted teeth from this company.
    so students should see for alternate means to collect teeth rather than buy from bforbones.

    Reply
  3. D. M. Duggan

    One reason to think that teeth collected overseas might be done any more inappropriately than in the U.S. , by the local oral surgeon, is that there is a profit motive for the vendor. But the ability to make a profit means that the business is motivated to provide an important educational resource. It would be best IF an overseas company would indicate clearly the source of the teeth, how they were disinfected, and how they were sent to the U.S. In the past I have had students attempt to send teeth directly from India to the U.S., but the packages were held up in customs and could not be extricated (I won’t use the dental term …). Laws for human remains are a constantly moving target, within and into the U.S., and are bound to be frustrating to the business entity, but when teeth are used in an ADA accredited institution, a certain standard must be met.

    The fact is that in other countries, where periodontal care is not so common, there are many periodontal extractions, and these teeth are extremely useful for educational purposes. This educational value is more true now than twenty years ago, because in the dental schools there has been a decrease of patient availability and clinical experience.

    I would love to see the ADA, ADEA, regional board exam agencies and state dental boards weigh in on this issue and regulate to make sure that the teeth that are used for educational purposes are obtained correctly and ethically, received from certified vendors, and a reasonable profit is made by these vendors so that our dental educational experience continues to have the most natural aspect possible.

    We have to remember that a typodont tooth does not NEED a direct restoration or a crown – and eventually we have to learn how to solve real problems on real teeth. Much can be learned from mounted natural teeth, that NEED restoration, on the way to learning to solve clinical problems on patients.

    D. Michael Duggan, DDS, PhD

    Reply
  4. R. Jay

    Confused. What is wrong with selling human teeth? Why do people even care about this? Who is the victim?

    Reply
  5. Eric

    Due to this concern of unethical obtained teeth for sale, yet the demand for obtaining teeth for educational purposes, several classmates and I (all dental students) started a non-profit to facilitate this collection. We have a network of participating dentists collecting teeth and we distribute those teeth, charging only to cover costs of shipping supplies to dentists for collection and handling. Check us out – thetoothbank.org. Let me know if you have any questions!

    Reply

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