SDF Cavity Treatment Twinsburg, OH

Even with the best brushing and flossing habits, sometimes kids develop cavities. Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) treatment allows us to treat some cavities without the use of a dental drill or laser.  In fact, this treatment is as easy as painting a liquid on your child’s tooth. This completely pain-free approach to arresting cavities, not surprisingly, has won the hearts of kids, parents, and dentists alike.

How Does SDF Treatment Work?

As the name implies, Silver Diamine Fluoride is a liquid which contains both silver and fluoride! Each plays its own part in arresting cavities. 

First, the silver acts as an antimicrobial: It kills and/or slows the growth of the microscopic bacteria responsible for the decay.

Next, the fluoride helps strengthen the tooth. A cavity means that the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, has been weakened enough to allow bacteria to penetrate it. Fluoride encourages the remineralization of this weakened tooth enamel, so the bacteria cannot penetrate and weaken the tooth further. 

This one-two punch prevents decay from spreading to other teeth or to deeper layers of the tooth.


As we mentioned above, applying SDF literally gets painted on a decaying tooth. Your dentist does not need to numb or drill your child before application. At Great Beginnings Pediatric Dentistry, we observe the following steps for successful SDF application:


As a precaution, we place Vaseline around and on your child’s lips

Since SDF stains, we want to prevent it from being able to leave smudges on their face. Smudges will wash away in a couple of weeks, though, much like a temporary tattoo.


Next, we’ll dry the tooth or teeth to be treated

A little gauze and blown air are all that it takes.


Now we’re ready to paint the tooth!

We’ll apply generous layers of SDF to your child’s affected tooth.


Then, we’ll let the SDF dry for 1 minute.

The SDF needs about 15 minutes to dry.  If your child needs help staying open this long, we use tooth pillows and fun distractions to help the time pass quickly.  Then the excess SDF is blotted dry and a layer of fluoride is applied.


Then we’ll apply a second treatment.

For the best outcome, we need to apply SDF treatment twice.

How Effective is SDF Treatment?

With two applications, research shows SDF to arrest 80% of cavities!  Of course, SDF treatment is not the right choice for all cavities.  Different levels of decay require different types of treatment. SDF treatment is effective in treating incipient decay, or early decay.  In the early stages, only the outer layer of the tooth enamel is affected. Once the decay goes beyond the enamel to the dentin of the tooth, SDF treatment is not appropriate.

How Much Does SDF Treatment Cost?

Compared to a traditional filling, SDF treatment is very cost effective!  In fact, it costs only about 1/5 of what a filling would cost!  More and more insurance companies are covering this cavity treatment option now, too!

What are the Downsides to Silver Diamine Fluoride?

For some patients, the discoloration properties of SDF are a downside. Silver diamine fluoride stains decay similar to a silver filling. As a result, some parents opt not to use SDF if front teeth, or other highly visible teeth, are involved. Others, though, view this staining of primary teeth acceptable to stop the decay. After all, it avoids the drill and the baby teeth will eventually be replaced with non-stained adult teeth! If the tooth is a permanent tooth, though, the staining will remain for the life of the tooth.

SDF staining on front of child's teeth at Great Beginnings Pediatric Dentistry near Solon, Ohio.

How Do I Know if My Child’s Tooth Decay Can Be Treated with SDF?

In order to determine if SDF treatment is right for your child, a dentist needs to asses your child’s situation.  For instance, at Great Beginnings, Dr. Laura or Dr. Rachel will take digital x-rays to determine the severity of the decay.  In addition, they will take into consideration when the affected baby tooth is expected to fall out.  Finally, they will consider the location of the decay, along with the parent’s feelings about the staining SDF causes. In short, your child needs a dental exam and consultation to see if SDF is the right treatment for their situation.

Dr. Laura and Dr. Rachel welcome your questions about SDF treatment and your child’s oral health.

If you’re wondering if your child can avoid the dental drill with silver diamine fluoride, call and schedule a visit today. Both of our pediatric dentists are currently accepting new patients age 12 years and younger. Even if SDF treatment isn’t right for your child, our laser dentistry may be! Learn how this virtually pain-free alternative to the traditional dental drill is another way Great Beginnings helps kids love the dentist!
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