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This New Treatment for Cavities May Ease Your Child’s Next Trip to the Dentist

How silver diamine fluoride is being used to treat pediatric cavities.

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You may be surprised, but the most common chronic disease of childhood is…tooth decay, according to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry. That’s right, cavities. Kids miss school days, and in a Delta Dental survey, 45 percent of parents say they have missed some work due to their child’s dental problems.

While emphasis on the prevention of cavities through good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist is first and foremost, when cavities do occur, fillings have been the typical treatment. No one enjoys the shots and drilling that comes with a filling, and for kids it can be especially uncomfortable or scary—but now, there’s another option.

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The use of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) for treating pediatric cavities was recently approved by the FDA and is increasingly being used by dentists in Colorado.

SDF, originally used for sensitive teeth, is a liquid applied with a brush to stop the growth of cavities. The main drawback is a permanent black staining on the cavity; for many, that’s a small trade-off in return for no drilling. The treatment, which is applied several times over the course of a few months, is 80 percent effective in fighting cavities.

“SDF should be considered a tool in the dental toolbox, and if the tooth is a candidate, parents should be given the option with understanding of the pros and cons,” says Bianca Hoffman, a member of the Colorado Pediatric Dentistry Association and pediatric dentist at Saddle Rock Pediatric Dentistry in Aurora. “Whether SDF is a good option for someone really depends on many factors, such as the child’s age, medical history, safety, ability to cooperate, severity of the cavity, and the parents’ preference.”

“With the development of more minimally-invasive treatment options such as SDF, we can strengthen our efforts to improve the oral health of our children,” Hoffman says. “In doing so, we can help foster a positive dental experience so that children will look forward to their visit to the dentist.”

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