Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organizations.
Fluoride works in three ways:
Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride containing dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and gels. Dentists and dental hygienists generally recommend that children and adults have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.
Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drop or gel form and can be prescribed by your dentist or physician. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants, and tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years. It is very important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.
Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. Dr. Theisen or your dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:
Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth
Exposed and sensitive root surfaces
Fair to poor oral hygiene habits
Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake
Inadequate exposure to fluorides
Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications
Recent history of dental decay
Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) is an odorless liquid that contains silver particles and fluoride. It is applied directly to cavities with a small brush. SDF is used to stop cavities from getting worse, and help keep the teeth healthy. This treatment is only effective on cavities that are very superficial and have not spread into the dentin layer underneath the enamel.
What are the benefits of SDF?
- Can stop cavities from getting worse, which can delay or prevent the need for more invasive treatment such as fillings, crowns, or extractions.
- Helps with tooth sensitivity
- Is fast, easy, and painless
Is SDF safe?
Yes! There have been no reported cases of major health risks or severe reactions to SDF. SDF does contain silver, however, so it should not be used for people with allergies to silver.
What are the side effects of SDF?
SDF has cosmetic side effects, such as temporary brown stains on skin and gums that have been touched by SDF, which can last up to three weeks. SDF also permanently stains the tooth cavity black, however, the healthy parts of the tooth will not be stained. It is important to understand that the teeth will continue to decay if there is no change in dental care habits (such as brushing/flossing teeth and avoiding sugary drinks and snacks).
Have more questions about SDF? Ask Dr. Theisen or reference the American Dental Association's website for more information and resources.
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit the dentist on a regular basis.