Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is used to stop (arrest) cavities without the need for anesthetic. It was first approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA in 2014.
In my experience SDF works best on cavities that are visible and can be kept clean after the SDF is applied. We most often use it for children who might not be able to cooperate for normal dental treatment. In the past, most children who were not able to be treated in the dental office would be taken to the hospital where they would be put to sleep (general anesthetic) and treated by a dentist there. This approach is expensive and there are also concerns with how general anesthesia affects brain development. SDF has allowed many children to be treated without the use of general anesthetic in dentists’ offices.
This process is completely comfortable for the patient!
The technique is simple. The tooth is dried and the SDF is applied. This process is completely comfortable for the patient! We let it sit for one minute and then we either rinse it off or cover it with fluoride varnish. One to six months later, the tooth is checked that the cavity is arresting (going from soft to hard) and SDF is reapplied a second time.
A downside to SDF treatment is that it turns the cavity area black, and this is a reason this procedure is usually only used for baby teeth (which will be lost when the adult teeth come in). If there is a hole where the cavity was, it can usually be filled comfortably without needing anesthetic. Or if the tooth is in the front where the black, arrested cavities look bad, we can often cover the areas with tooth-colored filling materials.
SDF is a great addition to modern dentistry. Please ask us if you think it might be an appropriate solution for you or your child’s treatment.