You don’t need to be a kids’ dentist in Vancouver to know that both children and adults alike don’t care for the idea of dental drills and needles when it comes to having a cavity filled. Fortunately, for all of those patients who’d rather run and hide rather than face the dental drill there’s an alternative: an antimicrobial liquid that can be brushed on cavities to stop tooth decay without any discomfort.
The liquid is known as silver diamine fluoride, or S.D.F. While the material has been used for decades in Japan, it was been unavailable for us in the U.S. until recently. For the last year, S.D.F. can now be purchased under the name Advantage Arrest.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of silver diamine fluoride for adults over 21 as a tooth desensitizer. However, new research suggests S.D.F. can be used to prevent the progression of cavities and even prevent them from forming at all. Noticing what the research has found, a growing number of oral health professionals have even begun using S.D.F. as a tool for cavity prevention.
A New Way to Fight Cavities
One of the most compelling reasons for dentists to use S.D.F. is that it completely eliminates the need to drill or use oral anesthetic that’s delivered by needle, claims proponents of S.D.F.
Silver diamine fluoride is already being used in hundreds of dental offices across the country. In Oregon, Medicaid patients are receiving treatment, and at least 18 dental schools have started teaching the country’s next generation of pediatric dentists on how to use S.D.F to treat patients.
“Being able to paint it on in 30 seconds with no noise, no drilling, is better, faster, cheaper,” according to Dr. Richard Niederman, chairman of the New York University College of Dentistry.
While S.D.F. has its proponents, the compound does possess some potential drawbacks that parents should be made aware of before selecting a preferred treatment.
S.D.F is known to blacken the brownish decay on teeth. While this type of discoloration may not matter when it occurs on the back molars or a baby tooth that will eventually fall out, there’s a possibility to S.D.F. treatments can permanently stain adult teeth.
Additionally, due to the unorthodox use of S.D.F. by many dental professionals, most insurance plans don’t cover S.D.F. treatments for tooth decay. This means parents must pay for this type of treatment out of pocket. Fortunately, S.D.F. is relatively inexpensive, and many parents feeling paying the additional cost a worthwhile investment.
A Non-Invasive Alternative
Nearly 25 percent of kids between the ages of 2 to 5 suffer from cavities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some preschoolers that suffer from severe cavities need to be treated at a hospital under general anesthesia, even though such treatment poses a risk to normal brain development. Unfortunately, many parents don’t feel they have a choice when confronted with the potential anxiety and discomfort their child may experience during routine treatments for cavities.
Advocates of S.D.F. argue that the compound provides dentists with an alternative to traditional drilling that will better allow them to reduce the number of kids with cavities needing to receive treatment at a hospital. However, parents must still weigh the risks of permanent tooth discoloration when deciding whether S.D.F. is right for their child.
Silver diamine fluoride offers another advantage over traditional treatment: it kills the harmful oral bacteria that contributes to tooth decay. Patients who receive a second applied treatment of S.D.F. six to 18 months after the first have significantly fewer cavities, studies have shown.
Studies have shown that the use of S.D.F. reduces the development of new cavities and the progression of current tooth decay by as much as 80 percent. Dental fillings, in comparison, do nothing to prevent further decay.
In part due to these benefits, Oregon became the first state to begin Medicaid reimbursements for the treatment of cavities with silver diamine fluoride.