In 2018, the then-president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry said that, aside from fluoridated water, a topical cavity fighter which has already been used in other countries for decades, “may be the single greatest innovation in pediatric dental health in the last century.”
Silver diamine fluoride is a liquid that can be painted on teeth to stop decay. Fast, low-cost and pain-free, the treatment is rapidly gaining momentum in the U.S. as the cavity treatment of choice for patients who can’t easily get a filling, such as the very young or the very old.
Silver diamine fluoride was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 for reducing tooth sensitivity. But its off-label use to treat cavities was quickly adopted. It made headlines as a trauma-free treatment for tooth decay in children under age 5.
The topical medication has been proven safe and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 for reducing tooth sensitivity. Pediatric dentists quickly began using it for kids unable to sit still during treatment and as an option for their parents who didn’t want their child to undergo general anesthesia. Now dental experts are recognizing that is also an especially attractive option for seniors.
The complete treatment only takes a few brushstrokes over the cavity. Silver diamine fluoride’s biggest downside is that it permanently turns the decayed area black – a problem, especially, for people with decay on a front tooth. However, the black spots can be covered by material to match the tooth. But for older adults, particularly residents in long-term care facilities (where cognitive issues may impede their ability to brush or floss regularly and many are too frail or weak to undergo painful drilling or treatments that would interfere with prescription medications like blood thinners), this innovation could be a game-changer for their oral health and a dark spot is a small price to pay for a treatment that stops cavities quickly.
Silver diamine fluoride stops decay in 60% to 70% of cases with one application. An additional application six months later boosts the treatment’s long-term effectiveness to more than 90%.
In addition to killing cavity-causing bacteria, the treatment hardens tooth structure, desensitizes the tooth and even stops new cavities from forming. Applying the liquid on the exposed root surfaces of older adults once a year is “a simple, inexpensive, and effective way” to prevent cavities.
One of the most important benefits of the application on older patients is that the liquid can reach decay that forms under existing dental work such as crowns and bridges. Previously, a dentist would have had to remove the crown, drill out the cavity and make a new crown — a traumatic, time-consuming, and expensive procedure.
Silver diamine fluoride may help usher in a new chapter for dental care, but dental insurance is still a basic essential. A dental plan from your association and AMBA can help give you access to check-ups, coverage on treatments, and help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Find out more at www.AMBAdentalvision.com or call 866-979-0497.