Any pediatric dentist would love to have a magical treatment that could just stop cavities in their tracks. But we don’t need to sit by the wishing well; this is one dream that is already coming true! With children’s cavities on the rise, I’m happy that we have silver diamine fluoride (SDF) in our toolbox.
SDF treatment, which can reduce the progression of dental caries by as much as 75 percent, has been around for years. But like any other treatment, it can take some time for studies to affirm its safety and efficacy and then for the new treatment to make it out into the world.
Ever since the New York Times ran an article about a cavity-fighting liquid called “SDF” that can be brushed onto teeth to stop decay, we’ve received many questions about this treatment.
Common Questions About Silver Diamine Fluoride
What Is Silver Diamine Fluoride?
Silver diamine fluoride is a clear and odorless liquid. The silver component of the compound is an antimicrobial agent that destroys cavity-causing bacteria. Fluoride, as we all should know, helps prevent cavities and strengthens enamel. The compound made from these two ingredients is so effective that a single drop applied to a tooth can put the brakes on a cavity in progress. If cavities are the fire, then SDF is the fire extinguisher.
How Is Silver Diamine Fluoride Used?
The ease of use is one of the best features of SDF. The compound can simply be brushed onto a clean tooth in a couple of minutes. There’s no drilling, noise, injections, or discomfort involved.
When Is Silver Diamine Fluoride Recommended?
While full restoration is the best way to treat a decaying tooth, SDF provides a great alternative to halt decay quickly and easily. It’s best used on children who have multiple cavities in their primary teeth, as it doesn’t restore damaged teeth, only prevents further decay.
SDF might be recommended for children who won’t tolerate traditional treatment well or as a stopgap measure until a more permanent treatment can be provided.
What Are the Benefits of Silver Diamine Fluoride?
No pain. SDF application is non-invasive. That means no shots, no pain, no anesthetic, and no drill required! In fact, SDF was originally developed for treating sensitive teeth, so kids will have even less pain and discomfort as a result of treatment.
Stops cavities. While it’s not 100 percent, SDF has a great track record for stopping the progression of dental caries in teeth.
It’s safe. Children and their parents have nothing to fear. It takes only a tiny amount for effective treatment, and it’s very safe.
It’s fast. After isolating the affected teeth, the full process takes only a few minutes. For some cases, we might recommend multiple applications to be sure we got it.
It’s affordable. Treatment with SDF is one of the most cost-effective operations out there.
Are There Downsides to Silver Diamine Fluoride?
I know what you’re thinking: If SDF is so good, why isn’t it everywhere? Shouldn’t we be using this treatment all the time?
There is only one downside to SDF treatment that patients and parents need to be aware of, and it’s an aesthetic one. Silver diamine fluoride can darken affected areas.
While SDF itself is clear, its reaction with decay can turn those areas darker. Healthy parts of the teeth won’t be discolored, and teeth that are decaying are typically discolored anyway. But we might prefer to use SDF treatment on areas that are less visible rather than on front teeth.
Silver Diamine Fluoride Treatment for Kids in Flower Mound
Cavities in children under age 6 are more prevalent than ever. I don’t recommend leaving cavities untreated, even in primary teeth, as they can cause significant developmental problems. For many parents, it’s a tough decision to opt for major dental work for young children, especially the big cases that require sedation. SDF can be a great alternative to the operating room.
Dr. Debra Duffy