What is Silver Diamine Fluoride and Is it Safe for Kids?

What is Silver Diamine Fluoride and Is It Safe for Kids? | Junior Smiles Of Stafford
What is Silver Diamine Fluoride and is it Safe for Kids? | Junior Smiles Of Stafford

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is a new dental treatment that has been gaining attention in the dental community. Some dentists are calling it a “game changer” because of its ability to halt tooth decay and prevent cavities. But what is silver diamine fluoride, and is it safe for kids?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at SDF and find out what parents need to know about this new dental treatment.

What is Silver Diamine Fluoride Treatment (SDF)?

Silver diamine fluoride treatment stands as an alternative cavity treatment, particularly beneficial in managing decay in baby teeth. This liquid solution’s potent antibacterial properties target cavity-causing bacteria, stopping decay in its tracks often with a single application. However, it’s crucial to note that while effective, SDF can cause black staining on the spots of tooth decay, and some children might report a metallic taste.

How Does SDF Combat Cavity-Causing Bacteria?

Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) is a revolutionary approach in the realm of pediatric dentistry for its efficacy against cavity-causing bacteria, and understanding how it works is critical for appreciating its role in dental care.

Antibacterial Properties

SDF is particularly potent due to its high concentration of silver ions, which are known for their strong antibacterial properties. These ions target common oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay, effectively disrupting their ability to grow, reproduce, and metabolize the sugars that lead to the creation of harmful acids. By directly eliminating the bacteria, SDF removes the primary cause of cavities, actively preventing the progression of tooth decay.

Protection and Strengthening of Tooth Structure

The fluoride component of SDF plays a dual role. Primarily, it aids in remineralizing, or rebuilding, areas of the tooth that have started to decay, thereby strengthening the tooth structure. This process not only restores some integrity to the affected teeth but also creates a mineral barrier resistant to further acid attacks, contributing to the prevention of new cavities or the deepening of existing ones.

Halting the Spread of Decay

The active components in SDF penetrate deep into the tooth structure, establishing a protective barrier that helps to contain the spread of decay. This is particularly important in the context of cavities, as the decay can often reach the inner layers of a tooth if left unchecked. By halting the progression of decay, SDF ensures that the damage doesn’t spread to adjacent teeth or worsen within the affected tooth, thereby preserving the child’s overall dental health and reducing the potential need for more invasive treatments later on.

Why Do Pediatric Dentists Favor SDF?

Pediatric dentists favor Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) for several compelling reasons, making it an increasingly popular form of treatment for cavities on children.

Minimally Invasive

One of the foremost reasons is its non-invasive nature. Traditional child tooth cavity treatment can be uncomfortable or even scary for young children, often involving drills or injections. SDF is a gentle alternative, applied directly to the tooth’s surface without the need for these more invasive methods. This aspect makes the treatment experience less traumatic for kids, reducing the anxiety and resistance that often accompanies traditional dental procedures.

Efficient and Effective

SDF is lauded for its effectiveness in arresting tooth decay. The silver component acts with antibacterial properties, killing bacteria that cause cavities, while the fluoride works to prevent further demineralization of the teeth. It’s not only an effective treatment for existing decay but also a preventive measure against the progression of cavities. The ability of SDF to stop decay with a single treatment makes it an efficient option for patients, especially beneficial in cases where multiple cavities need attention.

Preserves Tooth Structure

SDF application does not require the removal of decayed tooth structure, which is particularly important in the context of baby teeth. It helps preserve the natural tooth, buying time until the tooth falls out naturally and is replaced by permanent teeth.


Compared to traditional restorative treatment, SDF is a more affordable option. It reduces immediate treatment costs and decreases the likelihood of extensive procedures in the future, making it an economically attractive treatment for families.

How Does a Pediatric Dentist Administer Silver Diamine Fluoride?

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) treatment has emerged as an approachable treatment option in pediatric dentistry, offering a non-invasive alternative to traditional dental procedures. The method involves the skilled application of a topical medicament used to halt the progression of cavities and provide relief, particularly for patients for whom invasive treatments may not be suitable. Below is the detailed process of how a board-certified pediatric dentist administers this treatment method on pediatric patients.

Initial Treatment Discussion

The pediatric dentist begins by discussing the silver diamine fluoride treatment as a method of treatment applied to control active dental caries. This discussion would include mentioning that it’s a liquid solution treatment, its benefits, potential side effects (like temporary staining of the cavity area), and the consideration of restorative treatment options. Parents are usually informed that while a single application annually can stop cavities from progressing, follow-ups are necessary to monitor the effectiveness.

Assessment for Silver Allergy

Before the application, the skilled dentist must ensure the child does not have a silver allergy. This step is crucial as exposure to the silver component in patients allergic to silver could trigger an allergic reaction.


The dentist isolates the affected area, often using cotton rolls or other devices to keep it dry. The surrounding gum tissue and other areas are protected with petroleum jelly or a similar barrier to prevent any potential irritation from the solution, as the high concentration of fluoride can harm soft tissues or cause white-spot lesions on the adjacent tooth surfaces.

Skilled Application

The dentist carefully applies the silver diamine fluoride liquid solution onto the surface of the cavities using a microbrush or a similar applicator. The solution is allowed to penetrate the affected areas, which usually takes a few minutes. This skilled application ensures the treatment targets only the intended areas, reducing the risk of unnecessary exposure to healthy teeth and tissues.

Post-application instructions

After the application, the dentist instructs the child and parents to avoid eating or drinking for a certain period to let the solution effectively work on the targeted area. They are also informed about the black staining of the treated tooth structure, which is a common consequence, not harmful, and indicates the arrest of caries.


Regular dental visits are scheduled to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. In some cases, a single application may not be sufficient, and additional applications or alternative restorative treatments may be necessary, depending on the caries’ progression or other oral health considerations.

The approachability of silver diamine fluoride as a treatment option lies in its non-invasive nature, making it an ideal treatment option for managing cavities in young children, individuals with special needs, or those who experience anxiety with traditional dental procedures. It provides an effective treatment for cavities without the immediate need for drilling or more extensive restorative work. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the pediatric dentist will decide whether it’s suitable on a case-by-case basis, considering all factors involved in the child’s dental health.

Is SDF the Right Treatment Choice for Your Child?

Before opting for this type of treatment, consulting with a pediatric dentist is essential to assess its suitability, considering factors like silver allergy or a genetic predisposition affecting decay in children’s permanent teeth. This step helps determine whether SDF or an alternative treatment will be the most effective treatment for cavities.

Read More: How Do Dentists Fill in Cavities for Toddlers?


How long does silver diamine fluoride last on teeth?

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is known to provide long-lasting protection on teeth, often lasting between 12 to 24 months. However, the exact duration can vary depending on individual oral care practices and dietary habits. Regular dental check-ups are essential to assess the continued effectiveness of SDF treatment.

Does silver diamine fluoride permanently stain teeth?

SDF does not permanently stain teeth. It may cause temporary black staining on the treated areas, indicating that the decay has been arrested. This staining is a cosmetic issue and can be addressed with various aesthetic dental procedures if desired.

Do they put toddlers to sleep for fillings?

Dentists typically avoid using general anesthesia to put toddlers to sleep for fillings whenever possible due to associated risks. Instead, they may opt for conscious sedation or nitrous oxide to help young children relax during the filling process, ensuring a more comfortable experience while minimizing anxiety.

Is it true that SDF turns teeth black? 

Yes, it’s true that SDF can turn teeth black temporarily. This staining is a result of the actual application of the fluoride solution, which is an effective solution for halting decay and inhibiting bacterial growth. It’s a sign that the treatment is actively working to address dental issues.

Read More: How Cavities in Baby Teeth are Treated

Contact Junior Smiles of Stafford to know more about Silver Diamine Fluoride

At Junior Smiles of Stafford, we understand the importance of providing gentle yet effective dental treatments for children. Our experienced team is skilled in administering SDF treatments, ensuring your child receives the best care with the least discomfort. If you’re considering this innovative treatment for your child’s dental health, we invite you to contact us for a comprehensive consultation. Together, we can help maintain your child’s beautiful smile and ensure their teeth remain healthy and strong.

For further information about Silver Diamine Fluoride or any other pediatric dental concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Junior Smiles of Stafford. We’re committed to offering top-notch dental care and guiding you through the best options for your child’s dental health.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist in providing your child with a healthy, happy smile!