What is Silver Diamine Fluoride?

Gentle Dental

What is Silver Diamine Fluoride?

Silver diamine fluoride is a liquid used to help prevent cavities from forming in teeth. Here’s what you should know about this beneficial dental solution.

How it Works

Initially approved for use by Japanese dentists more than eight decades ago, Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) was only recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014. The liquid helps prevent dental caries thanks to a unique chemical formulation which includes:

  • Water – which acts as a liquid base for the active ingredients
  • Silver – which kills bacteria
  • Fluoride – intended to remineralize tooth enamel
  • Ammonia – which keeps the solution concentrated to maximize its effectiveness

How Is it Used?

While SDF is sold in some stores for use at home, it’s most commonly and safely used in professional dental clinics. Most dentists use a liquid form containing a minimum of 38 percent of actual SDF solution. SDF is applied topically to the area of a tooth affected by a cavity. 

Traditionally, many dentists have used a type of fluoride varnish to try to prevent or stop cavity development. Research indicates that SDF is much more successful at stopping cavity growth compared to varnish. The solution also requires fewer treatments over time.

What Are the Benefits?

SDF has been shown to offer dental patients a variety of benefits, including: 

  • Caries resonance, meaning an existing cavity ceases to develop
  • SDF has been shown to kill bacteria that break down the surfaces of teeth
  • SDF can be helpful for children or adults who wish to avoid the discomfort associated with drilling cavities
  • Treatments are quick, require no special equipment and usually only need to be performed once per year

Silver Diamine Fluoride Side Effects

SDF is widely considered to be safe, even on very young children. That said, it’s generally not recommended for patients with canker sores, oral ulcerations, advanced gum disease or silver allergies. The only common side effect of SDF is black staining around the area where the solution is applied. SDF may also stain clothing, oral tissues and other surfaces it contacts during application. 

Silver Diamine Fluoride Cost

Since it is a class II medical device, SDF may be covered by some health insurance plans and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Many states also offer Medicaid plans which cover all or part of SDF dental treatments.