Silver diamine fluoride is a liquid composed of silver, water, fluoride, and ammonia. It’s nearly twice as strong as the normal fluoride varnish used on healthy teeth. Each ingredient plays a specific role in preventing and blocking the spread of cavities on vulnerable teeth. Silver ions disrupt the bacterial biofilm responsible for the decay, while ammonia maximizes the formula’s concentration. SDF has been used in Japan for more than 80 years, and in 2014 was approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.
Unlike normal fluoride treatments that aim to prevent cavities, SDF treatment is used to stop cavity development after decay has already formed. This process is formally known as “caries resonance”. SDF treatment can be used on children and adults alike, but it’s most commonly performed on children as a safe, simple, minimally-invasive alternative to drilling.
Silver diamine fluoride offers many benefits to patients with untreated tooth decay: kills the bacteria known to erode tooth surfaces, stops cavity-causing bacteria from spreading to other teeth, and provides a comfortable alternative to drilling cavities, especially for young patients or those with dental anxiety.
Hundreds of case studies using SDF prove that it’s a safe treatment option, even for very young children.
It’s important to note that the silver ingredient in silver diamine fluoride does cause permanent black stains on the decayed area of the treated tooth. There’s no way to prevent this black staining, but it’s easy to cover stains with tooth-colored filling material. Fortunately, since most teeth treated with SDF are primary baby teeth, they are eventually replaced by healthy, white, permanent adult teeth.