SDF A Viable Solution For People At Great Risk For Dental Decay
Tooth decay is a dental public health problem in our area. Nationwide, it remains the most common chronic disease in children. It can lead to pain, problems with eating, speaking, and concentrating in school. It may result in visits to the school nurse and even trips to hospital emergency rooms. One possible solution to this problem lies in a liquid known as silver diamine fluoride (SDF). SDF is a safe and inexpensive topical agent that works by killing bacteria in a tooth cavity and helps decayed enamel to remineralize (harden). The use of SDF to stop active decay eliminates the need for needles and dental drills, which can improve children’s experiences in the dental office. It can be especially useful for those who have extensive dental decay but who have challenges sitting in a dental chair. Behavioral issues routinely complicate or prevent restorative treatment of decay in young children. For some of these children, options for care include sedation or receiving treatment in an operating room with general anesthesia. Both increase the risks and cost of treatment while the restorative care does not address the underlying bacterial infection that causes dental decay. According to the National Institutes of Health, SDF reduces tooth decay progression and subsequent decay by 60 to 80 percent in teeth, and its estimated cost is significantly less than traditional fillings. SDF application is faster and easier than the traditional cavity treatment approach (drilling), and a single drop can treat as many as five teeth, making it an appealing option for children. SDF may also be a reasonable alternative for treating the decayed teeth of millions of elderly persons living in long-term care facilities. Disadvantages to SDF include a staining of the area of the tooth that has the decay. The amount of staining is related to the size of the cavity. Normal, sound enamel is not stained. Treatment with SDF may not eliminate the need for dental fillings to repair function of the tooth. It should not be applied to anyone who has an allergy to silver or an inflamed area of the mouth as it can increase irritation in the area. SDF is not for everyone but it does represent a viable solution for people at great risk for dental decay whose treatment is challenged by behavioral or medical issues or who have difficulty accessing dental care. Please consult with your dental health professional about other options to combat tooth decay. Free preventive dental hygiene care, including SDF application, is available to children ages 3 to 17 during Luzerne County Community College’s Kids’ Cavity Prevention Day on Saturday, March 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the LCCC Benco Dental Clinic at the Francis S. and Mary Gill Carrozza, R.N. Health Sciences Center in Nanticoke. Appointments are encouraged by calling 570-740-0448. Children can also participate in interactive dental health stations to receive information and prizes. Join us as we promote the importance of good oral health in children. JULIE CLEARY is professor of Dental Health Programs at Luzerne County Community College.