SDF prevents cavities and keeps existing ones from worsening in school-based program

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silver diamine fluoride
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An inexpensive, cavity-fighting liquid called silver diamine fluoride (SDF) worked as well as dental sealants to keep tooth decay at bay in a school cavity prevention and treatment program, according to a new study by US researchers.

The study by researchers at NYU College of Dentistry, which followed more than 4000 elementary school students for four years and is published in JAMA Pediatrics, shows that SDF is an effective alternative to sealants, and can increase access to dental care while reducing costs.

Originally approved by the FDA for treating tooth sensitivity, the solution SDF is brushed onto the surface of teeth, killing decay-causing bacteria and remineralising teeth to prevent further decay.

At each school visit, a team of health professionals examined children’s teeth and applied either sealants or SDF followed by fluoride varnish, depending on which treatment the school was randomly assigned to receive. Starting in 2018, the team visited each school twice a year, although the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures led to missed visits.

The researchers reported last year in JAMA Network Open that a single treatment of either SDF or sealants prevented 80 per cent of cavities and kept 50 per cent of existing cavities from worsening two years later.

The team continued their study for another two years, and in their most recent study, found that SDF and sealants prevented roughly the same number of cavities after children were followed for a total of four years. Moreover, both sealants and SDF reduced the risk of decay at each follow-up visit.

“Our longitudinal study reaffirms that both sealants and SDF are effective against cavities. SDF is a promising alternative that can support school-based cavity prevention—not to replace the dental sealant model, but as another option that also prevents and arrests decay,” the study’s first author Dr Ryan Richard Ruff said.

“Most research shows that SDF can stop a cavity from progressing further. Our study demonstrated that SDF can prevent cavities from happening in the first place,” the study’s co-author Tamarinda Barry Godín added.

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