Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF): What You Should Know

Recently, the American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) released a study on the use of Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) and how it may be used to treat hypersensitivity and decay in children and patients with special needs. It is important to note that the preferred method to treat and arrest decay is by removing the decay and taking restorative measures such as fillings or crowns, but it may be the case that these standard methods are not always physically or financially viable. In these cases, SDF provides a fantastic alternative solution to stopping decay in its tracks.

Since you may be seeing this as a treatment option in days to come, we thought it would be helpful to provide some background to improve your grasp on what it is and how and why it may be used.

What Is Silver Diamine Fluoride?

SDF is a liquid solution comprised primarily of water, ammonia, silver and fluoride. The silver in the solution serves to strengthen and protect the underlying dentin layer of a patient's teeth, while the fluoride treats decay and prevents further deterioration from progressing. SDF is colorless and is sometimes reported to have a slightly metallic taste.

This FDA-approved anti-microbial liquid has been in use for years to treat hypersensitivity, but only recently did we have abundant, detailed studies available on the successful use to treat and arrest decay in children, special needs patients, and the elderly.

How Does it Work?

After the patient's teeth are cleaned and dried, SDF is applied to teeth with a small brush one drop at a time and left to cure for roughly two minutes. The solution is applied directly to areas affected by decay and kills harmful bacteria to stop cavities from growing and further decay from progressing. This also reduces hypersensitivity by allowing the silver to add strength and protection to any exposed dentin, which is most often the cause of hypersensitivity.

Is it Right For My Child?

SDF is a safe alternative to more invasive treatment methods that comes with no reported health risks or severe adverse effects. It is most often recommended for use in children who have severe early childhood caries (SECC), but is also a valid noninvasive option for patients who are unable to physically cooperate fully during treatment.

There are many benefits from the use of SDF:

  • SDF treatment is a very simple, cost-effective, and fast process.
  • It is a painless, non-invasive alternative to traditional decay prevention, meaning there is no need for shots or drilling.
  • It is incredibly effective at completely stopping and preventing decay, and also relieves sensitivity in a patient's teeth.

There are also some drawbacks with SDF treatments:

  • SDF has been reported to have a slightly metallic taste and ammonia smell that fades rapidly after treatment.
  • Decayed areas of teeth treated with SDF will have permanent black or brown staining. This is caused by a reaction with the silver in the compound and is evidence that it is killing the bacteria causing the decay. Only the decaying areas will appear brown/black, not the entire tooth.
  • Patients with mouth ulcers or silver allergies should avoid SDF and discuss alternative options with their clinician.

As with any dental procedure, you should discuss treatment options with your pediatric dentist to ensure you fully understand the potential benefits and risks. Regardless of the method of treatment applied, your best defense against decay is to remove risk by favoring healthy nutritional and dental habits.

Sources: AAPD SDF Guidelines for use, ADA Science in the News, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information

Get new posts delivered to your inbox!