Silver Diamine Fluoride
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of elixir for stopping cavities from getting bigger? Well, there is. It’s a liquid antibiotic called silver diamine fluoride (SDF) and it has been used for decades in countries like Australia and Japan to stop and arrest active cavities. In 2014, the FDA approved the compound as a desensitizing agent. But dentists are permitted to use it off-label in patients who for one reason or another can’t get the recommended cavity treatment, which usually means removing decay with a drill or tooth removal and replacement with a crown.
What is SDF?
Silver diamine fluoride is a safe, bacteria killing compound containing silver and fluoride. It’s applied topically and absorbed by the teeth. Silver has antibacterial properties and helps strengthen the protective layer of the tooth, known as dentin. Fluoride is the active ingredient that stops tooth decay from spreading in the tooth and surrounding teeth. Applying SDF is completely painless. It costs less than traditional cavity treatment. And it works in very young patients, kids, and adults.
Who should get SDF?
This treatment is used a lot in young patients and anyone else who can’t undergo the recommended procedure to remove tooth decay. So it’s most often used on kids who are too young to cooperate with the dentist or too fearful of the traditional dental procedure. The compound can be used on baby and adult teeth.
Here are some patients would benefit from treatment with SDF:
- Young kids who have a lot of tooth decay and need extensive dental work
- Kids who don’t cooperate while undergoing dental procedures
- Kids or adults who can’t receive treatment under general anesthesia
- Patients at any age who have special needs
- Very old patients
- Patients who are too sick to undergo dental treatment that can last 30 minutes or more
How the treatment works?
Silver diamine fluoride liquid is meant to be a temporary cavity treatment. It will not cure tooth decay. But rather, just stop or slow cavities from getting bigger and prevent decay from further damaging the teeth. It also relieves insensitivity, which is a symptom of cavities and tooth decay. But SDF liquid won’t restore a tooth back to its original, healthy form.
To apply SDF to one or more teeth, Dr. Yarbrough or Dr. Rightmer first dries the area. The dentist then brushes the solution on to the affected teeth. Once the compound dries, after about two minutes, the doctor rinses the area with water.
For a few hours after SDF is applied, patients may have a metallic aftertaste in their mouth.
Patients should have a follow-up appointment after about four weeks because a small percentage of individuals need more than one SDF application. For an even smaller group of patients, SDF doesn’t work at all. And the longer the appropriate treatment for dental caries (aka cavities) is delayed, the more the tooth will decay and it may even spread to surrounding teeth.
What you need to know about SDF?
For most patients, SDF can be a temporary miracle treatment. It buys time because it stops cavities from getting worse. That means kids can hold off on getting the proper cavity treatment until they’re old enough to cooperate with the dentist. And adults can benefit from the extra time if they need to save money for fillings or until they have time to schedule the procedure. But SDF has a downside. The agent will turn teeth black. And it’s not reversible. The good news is that SDF won’t stain healthy tooth enamel.
On the one hand, black spots are an incentive for patients to return to the dental chair and have the decay permanently removed from the affected teeth, typically with a drill and dental filling. But on the other hand, if the patient is very young, the problem might soon go away without drills or fillings once baby teeth fall out.
Silver diamine fluoride can also cause some mouth and gum irritation, but it’s usually mild and disappears on its own pretty quickly.
Who should not get SDF
Overall, SDF is very safe. But there are times when a patient can’t be exposed to the compound or when treatment should be delayed. Since SDF contains silver, anyone with a silver allergy should avoid this treatment. Also, if a patient has sores anywhere in the mouth or on the gums, she should wait until the ulcers are fully healed.
While SDF is a great option, patients should know that it’s not a substitute for traditional cavity treatment. In most cases, patients still need to have the procedure to remove decay, usually with a drill and fillings. Or, in the worst case scenario, the affected tooth will have to be removed and replaced with a crown.
If you’re interested in hearing more about SDF, call Westgate Family Dental right now to schedule an appointment with Dr. Yarbrough or Dr. Rightmer.