Pros and Cons of Silver Diamine Fluoride
Like most treatments, SDF isn't a perfect miracle. Silver diamine fluoride has both pros and cons. Note that it's not a substitute for a more definitive restorative treatment. It's intended as a minimally invasive treatment intervention in pediatrics, the elderly, and those who cannot access and/or tolerate care. Some very positive aspects of SDF include the following:
- Various settings use SDF, such as traditional dental offices, public health clinics, daycare centers, and nursing homes. It's also a good option for people who have difficulty accessing or receiving conventional care.
- As an inexpensive and small treatment, SDF is affordable to most people and dental practices. No expensive tools or heavy equipment are needed. All a facility needs is a small bottle of this solution to take advantage of its full benefits! According to Health Affairs, while a traditional restorative treatment for tooth decay can cost hundreds of dollars, the amount of SDF needed for one person's treatment is only ninety-one cents! Its affordability makes it an excellent option for people who don't have dental insurance or the ability to pay out-of-pocket for an expensive treatment.
- SDF is safe and effective for many demographics but is extremely useful for treating tooth decay in baby teeth as a minimally invasive procedure. This helps to save the baby tooth as a placeholder for the child's developing permanent teeth. A dental professional may also decide SDF is a good option for you if you have cavities throughout your mouth or have cavities in areas that are difficult to view (so staining won't be noticeable). What's more, an article published in the Journal of the California Dental Association notes that SDF is second only to sealants as the most effective primary prevention for cavities, and sealants are 10 times more expensive than SDF and require monitoring.
SDF has few drawbacks, and you and your dental professional can find ways to prepare for them. For example, the compound can cause a poor taste in your mouth or stain the surrounding gum tissue if it makes contact. However, dental professionals take extra care to decrease the chances of spilling SDF, and they pay close attention to isolating the teeth needing treatment. You should also let your dental professional know if you are or your child is allergic to silver or silver compounds before getting this treatment.
For cosmetic reasons, because SDF does darken the decayed area of a tooth, you may be hesitant to use it. We don't blame you for wanting to avoid permanent darkened areas of you or your child's smile! SDF can also stain other surfaces it touches, such as skin, clothing, toys, and countertops. While you could view the dark staining of a decayed area as a drawback of SDF, it may be a side effect you're willing to accept rather than undergoing more invasive dental care.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's Chairside Guide: Silver Diamine Fluoride in the Management of Dental Caries Lesions notes the reapplication of SDF and the addition of a fluoride varnish may be necessary for successful treatment. It states that SDF can be applied as needed at regularly scheduled dental check-up appointments. Your child's dental professional will decide to reapply SDF based on the hardness and color of the affected area and if there's any evidence the decay or lesion has progressed. A biannual reapplication of SDF has also shown to be successful versus a one-time application.
To prevent additional caries, a dental professional may also apply a five percent sodium fluoride varnish to your child's entire smile after SDF treatment. As noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, your child's dental professional can apply fluoride varnish to their teeth two to four times per year. While fluoride varnish can help mitigate the chances of your child getting cavities, as well as slow them down, it's not a standalone preventive measure. Your child will still need a top-notch oral care routine, to attend regularly scheduled professional dental appointments, and eat a healthy diet, as noted below.