My Child has a Cavity… Is SDF Cavity Treatment an Option?


Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, which is why we want to talk about SDF cavity treatment today. While tooth decay is preventable, we must find ways to treat these decayed teeth.

As much as we would like to prevent cavities, the reality is that 40% of children in the United States will get a cavity by age five.

It is true that our filling options have vastly improved over the years, but what about when it’s a small child that needs a filling. They can’t always sit still in the dental chair and may not tolerate being worked on. So it becomes our responsibility, as dentists, to find ways to treat these cavities that do not cause stress to our patients.

First, let’s discuss tooth decay.

Our Goal is to Prevent Tooth Decay

Brushing and Flossing

Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily remains the best way to prevent cavities; however, it can be difficult to get every area, especially for kids. Luckily there are sealants which help prevent cavities while your kids are learning how to properly brush and floss. (Read More: Dental Sealants: When and Why You Should Get Them)


Remember, preventing cavities goes beyond just brushing and flossing. Our nutrition plays a key role in preventing cavities!

Cavities form when sugar comes into contact with the bacteria in your mouth, which creates acid that attacks your teeth. Every time you eat this happens, so it is important to limit snacking throughout the day. (Read More: Preventing Cavities: How Important is Nutrition to Oral Health?)

Oral Care Starts Early

As adults, we are told all of the time we need our teeth cleaned twice a year, but what about your kids’ dental needs? No one has ever discussed that with you and it can be hard to decide what the right time is. Lucky for you we are here to help you through the first milestone of your baby’s first dental visit. (Read More: Oral Health: When Should I Schedule My Baby’s First Dental Visit?)

Why Treat Baby Teeth?

Dental decay, if left untreated, can harm the child’s permanent teeth, below the gums. Poor oral health, during infancy, can have longstanding effects on children through adolescence, even as an adult.

Tooth Decay to Cavity

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. It can be a problem for children, teens and adults. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel.

An untreated cavity can lead to an infection in the tooth called a tooth abscess. Untreated tooth decay also destroys the inside of the tooth (pulp). This requires more extensive treatment, or possibly removal of the tooth. Consuming sugars and starches increase the risk of tooth decay.

If you have a typical cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed tooth tissue and then restore the tooth by filling it with a filling material. If the damage to the tooth and/or an infection spreads to the pulp (inside of the tooth), you might need a root canal.

My Child Already has a Cavity! Now What?!?!

As we’ve discussed, the most important factor in preventing tooth decay is proper oral hygiene and proper nutrition. But say your child already has a cavity, what do you do now? This is where Silver Diamine Fluoride, SDF cavity treatment, comes in.

What is Silver Diamine Flouride (SDF)?

SDF is a medication that is applied topically to the area of decay. It is not painful, does not require any local anesthetic and can effectively stop the decay from growing. The SDF cavity treatment is similar to a varnish in that it is placed on the tooth and will react with the cavity to stop it from growing.

Why is SDF Helpful when Treating Young Children?

This can be very beneficial for children who will not tolerate dental treatment. The SDF cavity treatment must be reapplied every 6 months to prevent the cavity from growing. This allows time for the child to mature and get used to coming to the dentist prior to any fillings being done. All things considered, this can be an excellent course to action to help treat early childhood tooth decay.

Items to Consider:

There are a few things to consider before using SDF cavity treatment:

  • First, SDF will turn the area of decay black. Cosmetically this can cause distress for patients and parents. It is important to remember that the black staining from SDF will not be permanent and can be removed at a later date when the permanent filling is placed on the tooth.
  • Second, once SDF has been placed on the tooth it will need to be reapplied every six months until the tooth is permanently restored. SDF is not a definitive treatment for the cavity, but it will prevent it from getting any larger.
  • Third, SDF will work properly if the child does not have proper oral hygiene. It will prevent cavities from growing, but if proper brushing and flossing is not being done daily, new cavities will form.

Benefits of SDF Cavity Treatment

SDF is not a permanent solution; however, SDF cavity treatment can be a great option for children who are scared of the dentist and won’t tolerate treatment. It can buy the patient more time and keep the decay from worsening until the child is old enough for treatment to be more successful OR until the baby tooth falls out. SDF cavity treatment can also give them time to grow and mature and prevent any negative experiences with the dentist.

Preventing Cavities with Luff Dental 

Preventing cavities is our goal; however, that’s not always possible. Dr. Luff has options, like SDF cavity treatment, to help little patients! We’re here to help you overcome any oral health challenges you or your family may be experiencing. Schedule a visit with us to discuss if this could be beneficial for your children.

Work with Dr. Luff and her team to find the most effective solution for your smile! We are always accepting new patients in the Lee’s Summit, MO and surrounding area who are ready to improve the health of their teeth, their confidence and smile! Please call Luff Dental at (816) 875-3391 to schedule your appointment.