Pediatric Dentistry

What is Silver Diamine Fluoride?

It used to be that cavities were a thing that went along with being a child. Back in the “old days”, cavities amongst kids were to be expected and it wasn’t unusual for someone to have a mouth full of them. But then came treatments that helped prevent caries/cavities, like fluoride, and parents rejoiced in the realization that their children might be spared the pain and other issues that can accompany tooth decay.

One of the more recent developments in the treatment of decay is the use of silver diamine fluoride, an inexpensive option that makes sense for most children. It’s very affordable, is easy to apply, and – once applied – can show down decay substantially or even stop it.

What should I know about this treatment?

Simply put, silver diamine fluoride is a liquid substance that can be used to prevent cavities/caries from forming, growing, or spreading to other teeth. It contains the following ingredients:

● Silver, which helps kill bacteria
● Water, which simply provides a liquid “base” for the substance
● Fluoride, which aids in “remineralization”, the act of rebuilding the materials of which the teeth are made
● Ammonia, which allows the solution to remain concentrated so that it’s at its most effective

Silver diamine fluoride has been used in other countries for decades but has only been approved by the FDA since 2014. Since that time, however, pediatric dentists in the U.S. have recognized its efficacy and the advantages of offering it to many of their patients.

Experts in dental care have also recognized that treatment with this lower-cost substance can save thousands upon thousands of dollars in oral health-related costs later in life. Public health departments also believe that this treatment could save millions of dollars in Medicaid payments if adopted and promoted.

How is silver diamine fluoride used?

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is most often used on areas of the mouth that are already affected by cavities. However, SDF can also be used as a preventive measure on healthy tooth surfaces to keep them that way.

SDF is a topical treatment, which means it is applied directly to the surface of the tooth/teeth. The process is simple. Generally, your dentist will place gauze near the affected tooth/teeth to keep moisture away from it during treatment. More moisture is removed from the surface of the tooth using a vacuum suction tool and then the solution is applied.

Happily, no fillings or other tooth surface modifications are necessary before applying silver diamine fluoride. This keeps cost down because fewer treatments and appointments are necessary.

Does it work?

Overall, SDF has proven to be quite successful in stopping or slowing the spread of decay. Specifically, it appears much more successful than the fluoride varnish that has been used for many years and, in addition, requires fewer treatments over time. Whereas most dentists will apply fluoride varnish about four times a year, silver diamine fluoride only requires application 2 to 3 times a year on affected teeth.

The treatment is also extremely safe and adverse side effects are not generally reported. However, it does cause a dark stain on the areas of decay, and if it gets on the skin may cause a stain that lasts for a few days. However, dentists note that these tooth stains are not dangerous in any way and are a reasonable trade-off for the halting of decay and the pain and expense that go with it.

Want to learn more about the use of silver diamine fluoride to help curb your child’s tooth decay or about using it as a preventative measure? The experts at Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry will be happy to discuss treatment with you at your convenience. Call Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry at 907-562-1003 to schedule an appointment with one of our board certified pediatric dentists

Dr Christy Jen DDS

Dr. Christy Jen received her undergraduate and dental degree from the University of Washington, and completed her pediatric dental training at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She practiced in Michigan and Louisiana while her husband finished his surgery training before finally making Alaska their home.

Published by
Dr Christy Jen DDS

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