SDF: a drop of liquid to fight cavities!
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
You may have heard of Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF), which has gotten some press over the last few years as more studies prove its benefits. In case you haven't heard of it, SDF is a liquid containing 38% silver diamine fluoride, and just 1 drop can be applied with a small brush to treat dental cavities.
While it doesn't remove a cavity, SDF has several properties that can slow the progression of decay. The silver it contains is antibacterial and the fluoride will help to remineralize the weakened tooth.
SDF is approved by the FDA to treat sensitivity on teeth, but is being used more frequently as a "quick fix" for people who need to delay definitive dental treatment on cavities that have not yet reached the nerve of the tooth. SDF is easy to apply, inexpensive compared to other treatments, and minimally invasive.
SDF can be especially helpful for young kids with cavities who have a hard time sitting still for treatment. With SDF application, the cavity growth can be stalled and we can delay definitive treatment like fillings until the child is older, thus avoiding complications of sedation that might be needed for extensive treatment on a young child.
Parents should know that SDF can cause staining and darkening of affected areas (see photo), so they may opt to apply it to back teeth only and seek other treatment on front teeth. The resulting dark stain is a sign of the antimicrobial action that stops cavities.
Despite the high concentration of fluoride in a single drop of SDF, there is less fluoride exposure than with fluoride varnish treatment. For kids who are especially high risk for cavities, it is still safe to combine fluoride varnish with SDF treatment.
Studies have shown that SDF applied twice a year can arrest (prevent growth) of 50-90% of dental cavities after 2 years. It can also prevent up to 70% of cavities that might happen elsewhere in the mouth. Fluoride varnish, which does not stain, can arrest about 21% of cavities and prevent up to 58%.
Photo: https://www.oralscience.com/en/products/advantage_arrest/ Source: SDF Chairside guide: Silver Diamine Fluoride in the Management of Dental Caries Lesions