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What if there was a way to physically stop active tooth decay in your child’s mouth? Although good oral hygiene can delay the spread of carious bacteria, it doesn’t physically strengthen the tooth itself. But there is one thing that can: silver diamine fluoride.
What is Silver Diamine Fluoride?
Fluoride — like calcium — is a naturally occurring mineral in many of the foods we eat. It’s also monitored at low levels in municipal water systems. But when it comes time to apply a more concentrated version of fluoride directly onto teeth, you’re granted the advantages of physically strengthening weak tooth surfaces and arresting (stopping) tooth decay.
Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) includes added ingredients to help kill cavity-causing bacteria, remineralize enamel, and be more potent against cavities than other types of fluoride gels.
As long as SDF is applied early enough during the cavity-development process, it can stop the enamel from weakening further. It’s often used even after a small cavity has already formed, as long as the decay isn’t too deep inside of the tooth itself. When it is, the cavity is prevented from spreading further. It’s a great option if your child has a primary (baby) tooth with a small cavity but may not have the tooth long enough to justify placing a crown or filling in it. Or perhaps the lesion is so small that the SDF is used in an attempt to avoid a filling at all.
Is it Applied During Dental Cleanings?
No. Unlike traditional fluoride treatments that are applied to all of the teeth after a dental cleaning, silver diamine fluoride is usually placed on a tooth-by-tooth basis. It serves as a type of treatment, rather than a general preventative. So, you won’t see it used during regular checkup appointments. More likely than not it will be something that our dentist performs after cleaning out an area of decay. Drilling isn’t necessarily required, but the surface might be etched or gently abraded before the SDF is applied.
A Painless Way to Treat Small Cavities
Early intervention is key to preventing the spread of cavities. And as long as we detect tooth decay while it’s small, a silver diamine fluoride treatment may be able to replace the typical filling appointment! Not only does this advantage make treatment more comfortable, it’s also much more affordable for your family.
Scheduling a dental checkup for your child every six months is key. That way we can monitor changes in your child’s oral health and intercept cavities during the earliest stages of development.
Who it’s For
SDF treatments are typically used on primary/baby teeth in young children. It’s helpful in that more invasive treatments can be avoided. That means no drilling or injections to numb your child’s mouth. Since young patients may have a more difficult time setting still for several minutes (for a filling appointment) using SDF is a non-invasive option for stopping the spread of decay when it’s small.
Primary teeth are eventually replaced with their permanent counterparts but losing them prematurely can alter your child’s oral development. Since cavities can cause premature tooth loss, it’s crucial to treat active infection as soon as possible. The interim benefits of SDF help to “buy time” so to speak, until those baby teeth are finally replaced with adult ones.
Is SDF used on permanent adult teeth? Sometimes. It will depend on which tooth is involved, the size of the lesion, and where on the tooth the cavity is. Depending on the risk factors involved, a small white filling may be the better alternative. Our dentist will review their recommendations with you, so that you can make an educated choice about your child’s smile.
Side Effects of SDF
It’s fairly common to see occasional staining on treated teeth, due to the formation of silver oxide. The stain is typically black and cannot be polished off. The permanent discoloration will stay in that specific area, which is why treating an adult permanent tooth in your child’s “smile zone” may not be recommended.
If your child is prone to oral infections, SDF may not be recommended. Always review your child’s medical history and health concerns with us prior to scheduling dental care.
Request a Consultation Today
Could Silver Diamine Fluoride treatment prevent your child from needing a filling? Request an exam with our dentist to find out. We’ll evaluate the depth of the lesion and whether a no-filling solution is the best option for your child’s mouth.
Contact us at (617) 527-6061 or request an appointment online.