In cases of tooth decay, the best method of treatment is usually to remove the decay and restore any affected tooth structures with fillings or crowns. However, in some cases, this is not possible for a patient. In cases where usual procedures are not able to be done, such as with very young children, or with someone who has a disability, silver diamine fluoride may be the answer.
What Is SDF And What Does It Do?
Silver diamine fluoride is a liquid solution applied to cavities to prevent the infection from growing worse and spreading to other teeth.
The solution is composed of silver, fluoride, ammonia, and water. Silver in the solution is used for its antibacterial properties and as a protectant for the tooth, while fluoride treats the decay and works to prevent it. The solution is clear colored and leaves a metallic taste in the mouth.
Silver diamine fluoride protects the outer layer of dentin while also working to combat decay. This treatment works best for children, but it is still effective for people of all ages.
In addition to fighting tooth decay, the ADA states that silver diamine fluoride was cleared by the FDA to be used as a desensitizing agent, meaning it can also be applied to help people with sensitive teeth.
How Is SDF Applied?
Silver diamine fluoride has a simple application process:
First, the dentist will clean the area to give the SDF solution better contact with the tooth. Cotton is placed near the affected teeth to keep them dry, and then the remaining moisture is vacuumed.
The SDF solution is then applied with a microbrush. This is done carefully to ensure the solution stays on the tooth and doesn’t stray to other areas of the mouth (this could cause irritation).
After, the area is rubbed for about a minute. The solution will then be gently air-dried. Finally, the dentist will use light curing to help the SDF absorb further into the tooth.
There are many benefits to getting a silver diamine fluoride treatment:
- Safe to use
- Easy to apply
- Low cost
- Stops tooth decay
- Helps prevent more decay
- High effectiveness
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to using silver diamine fluoride. The cons to using silver diamine fluoride are that it leaves permanent black stains on affected teeth, and it can cause irritation.
The solution stains because of a reaction the silver has with decay; it is evidence that the bacteria causing decay is being killed. It should be noted that SDF will only stain areas of decay, not the entire tooth.
WebMD explains that silver diamine fluoride leaves permanent stains on cavities, but not on healthy tooth structures. If silver diamine fluoride gets on other areas, such as elsewhere in the mouth, or on skin or clothes, the stains will be temporary and should fade from around a few days to three weeks.
As for the irritation, this may only occur if the solution makes contact with the gums or other soft tissues of the mouth, which will be the job of your dentist to avoid. Even if this happens, the irritation should fade after a few days but may also last longer.
Who Should Get Treated With SDF?
This treatment is usually recommended for those who can’t or won’t get traditional restorative treatment. If your child is not able to undergo a different treatment due to their young age, dental anxiety, or mental or physical disability, a silver diamine fluoride treatment may be recommended.
Treating a tooth with severe decay with SDF on its own is not a substitute for other restorative procedures. On its own, it cannot rebuild any tooth material that has been broken down. Go over a plan of action with your child’s dentist to combine silver diamine fluoride with another treatment, such as a filling or crown.
Adults with sensitive teeth may benefit from an SDF treatment in cases of sensitive teeth. Reapplication of silver diamine fluoride after six months may be beneficial in this situation.
When To Avoid SDF
Do not consider SDF if you have a silver allergy, or you could have a reaction.
If you have tooth decay that has opened up to the soft pulp inside your tooth, you should not undergo a silver diamine fluoride treatment. This is because the application of SDF at this stage of decay could exacerbate and spread the infection to surrounding teeth.
Always consult with your dentist about your medical history and discuss the treatment in depth before you agree to use silver diamine fluoride.
At Hurst Pediatric Dentistry, we are committed to providing high-quality dental care to kids of all ages. To learn more about silver diamine fluoride or if you have any questions or concerns, contact us or call us at (205) 969-7454.