Silver Diamine Fluoride
Pediatric Use of Silver Diamine Fluoride
Silver diamine fluoride is a non-invasive liquid medication that is proven to be very effective in arresting, or stopping, tooth decay. Unlike other treatment methods used to treat tooth decay such as fillings, silver diamine fluoride is applied to the teeth by a dentist with a brush. Silver diamine fluoride has been approved by the FDA for tooth sensitivity, but it is also very a useful "off-label" for the treatment of tooth decay. The active ingredient in silver diamine fluoride is silver, a compound used in medicine for over a century because of its potent antimicrobial properties. Interestingly, it is very effective at killing the bacteria that is known to cause tooth decay.
Traditional Treatment for Tooth Decay in Children
Historically, our options for restorative treatment have remained largely the same. For baby teeth with cavities, the treatment options range from fillings to crowns to extractions. In young or anxious children, or children with complex medical needs, these types of traditional treatment can become very complicated. Often for young or anxious children, general anesthesia is indicated in order to restore function and prevent pain and infection.
While general anesthesia is certainly indicated in some cases, it is always our goal to provide parents with as many options as possible so that you can make an informed decision about your child’s dental care. Having an alternative option that is non-invasive and more economical is a great benefit to many of our patients.
Alternative Treatment for Tooth Decay in Children
Silver diamine fluoride has been integrated into our practice for a variety of reasons. It can be a great option for very anxious children and may sometimes reduce the need for anesthesia for dental procedures. Additionally, it can be used on baby teeth that are nearing exfoliation, which spares unnecessary fillings or other intensive dental work on teeth that are on their way out. The significant side effect of silver diamine fluoride is discoloration. Healthy tooth surfaces remain undisturbed, but tooth decay (which is usually brown in color) turns very dark, nearly black, after application. This discoloration is what we look for during follow-up appointments to know that the medication was effective. Initially we believed that this dark discoloration would deter parents from choosing this option, but we have found that there are many parents who are happy to have an option that restores the health of their child’s teeth without the needs for more invasive treatment. The dark discoloration has sparked many conversations between our patients and their friends or relatives, and our patients are always quick to mention that we were able to avoid the expense and risk of anesthesia with a non-invasive option. It has also started conversations between parents about cavity prevention. Our families leave the office with a lot of knowledge about cavity prevention that they are able to share with family and friends, hopefully helping to prevent cavities in a great number of children!
Cosmetic Options in the Future
Using silver diamine fluoride to treat tooth decay in very young children results in dark discoloration of the decayed area. While many parents are just happy to have an alternative to more invasive options, some parents are left with cosmetic concerns, especially as their children enter their school-aged years. Using silver diamine fluoride does not eliminate more cosmetic options, such as white fillings, in the future. In many instances, we are able to use silver diamine fluoride while children are very young or anxious, and as they mature we can later restore their teeth with more conventional treatment without the use of anesthesia or sedation. We feel this is a very good compromise between health and aesthetics.
Contact Us To Discuss Treatment Options
There are many factors to consider when deciding which treatment modality is most appropriate for your child. Silver diamine fluoride is a very effective method for managing tooth decay in young or anxious children, and for teeth that are close to falling out on their own. It is non-invasive and very economical. If you'd like more information regarding the use of silver diamine fluoride for your child, please contact our office to schedule an appointment!