The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recently released evidence-based guidelines for the first time regarding a relatively new cavity treatment that uses silver diamine fluoride. The AAPD now recommends using the silver diamine fluoride as a treatment for cavities in children and special-needs patients. Experts believe this will lead to more dentists adopting this treatment method, said Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, a leading Everett, Washington dentist.
"The use of silver diamine fluoride provides a less invasive and more affordable treatment. It’s been used for a few years to treat tooth sensitivity and some have used it for cavity treatment," she said. "But now that guidance from the AAPD has been established, it’s very likely to become a much more commonly offered treatment."
What Is Silver Diamine Fluoride?
As the name suggests, the liquid is composed of silver and fluoride. The silver works by strengthening the dentin, which is the layer under the visible enamel, while also providing microbial benefits. Fluoride, used extensively in dentistry, helps stop decay and has been shown through research to prevent future decay.
"It’s applied like a fluoride treatment," said Norman. "But the liquid is applied only to the tooth or teeth with cavities present. It’s painless and quick. The biggest drawback to its use is that the decayed areas will turn black."
Healthy teeth aren’t usually stained by the treatment, but fillings, crowns and other restorative materials will stain. In some cases, the stains can be polished off, but that’s not the case in all situations. In addition, if the gums or tongue are stained, there’s no way to remove the stains except to wait a few weeks until the stains dissipate on their own.
Childhood Dental Caries
Pediatric tooth decay is a big problem in the United States and all over the world. The AAPD reports six in 10 children will have a cavity by the age of 8.
"Parents may not think they need to worry about cavities in baby teeth since they’ll fall out," said Norman. "However, decay in primary teeth can spread and cause problems for their permanent teeth."
In addition, childhood tooth decay can be painful, expensive and have a dramatic impact on a child’s quality of life. Healthy teeth are not only useful, but they’re also needed for eating and speaking in our daily lives. Children with extensive tooth decay struggle to eat without pain or difficulty, have trouble speaking correctly and statistically miss more school than their peers in good oral health.
The California Dental Association reports that more than half a million children in California missed school in the last year because of oral health problems.
"The best way to prevent childhood tooth decay is through a consistent and effective oral hygiene routine at home," Norman said. "It’s also imperative to see a dental professional twice a year if possible to clean areas that are being missed, keep an eye out for any problems developing and to ensure good overall oral health."