SDF: Cavity treatment with no injections
Updated: Sep 29
SDF treatment is quick, painless, simple, and effective, with high levels of evidence. Most importantly, it can help young or fearful patients, (such as children and special needs patients) avoid shots, drills, sedation and/or general anesthesia (GA) for dental work to treat their cavities. It's also more cost-effective than a traditional restoration. If a tooth is already hurting, SDF probably can’t be used as the cavity is too deep already. An in-office examination is required to determine if SDF is an option for any particular situation.
Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is a liquid medication that’s applied topically to the teeth with a small brush or a special type of floss. It has been used extensively around the world for decades (in Japan since the 1960's), and received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, and in Canada in 2017.
How is SDF applied?
The actual application of SDF is incredibly quick and painless. At Flow Dental Care, after the tooth is properly prepped (clear of plaque, food debris and moisture), we initially apply ozone onto the tooth to reduce the bacterial load.
Then it’s time for dr. Inoue-Cheng to apply the SDF with a microbrush. She simply dips the brush into the solution and paint the SDF directly to the affected surface. The application itself takes about a minute but can be shorter for young patients who may be less able to keep still for sustained periods.
How does it work?
The uses of silver fluoride include stopping tooth decay from progressing and keeping the affected teeth stable until the dentist determines if further action is necessary to preserve the health of the teeth. SDF helps harden the tooth structure softened by decay.
Are there risks or side effects?
One of the greatest benefits of silver diamine fluoride treatment is that it carries very little risks and is generally free of side effects. The most prominent downside is a completely aesthetic one — blackening of the treated area. When the silver in SDF is applied to a tooth, it oxidizes and leaves a black stain on the damaged cavity portion of the tooth (it does not stain healthy enamel). For children with baby teeth, however, the stains are effectively temporary because the teeth will fall out on their own. The stain can also be covered with composite filling for esthetic or functional purposes, which also doesn't require freezing or drilling the tooth.
It can temporarily stain any tissue surfaces it contacts (for example, lips or gums). For gums and tissue in the mouth, the staining is temporary (similar to a Henna tattoo). The cells in these soft tissues shed and are replaced quickly, so stains may persist for a few days up to a couple of weeks. Usually the chances of tissue staining are fairly low.
If you want to know more about SDF, contact us!