As silver diamine fluoride (SDF) gains traction as an effective, pain-free, topical treatment for stopping cavities, 151 dentists within the Delta Dental of Arizona network have used it, with more than 1,200 applications through June 30 of this year. Delta Dental of Arizona began reimbursing for SDF treatments this year.
“Arizonans cite dental anxiety and worries about cost as the two key reasons for not going to the dentist,” said Allan Allford, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona. “By adding SDF as a covered benefit, more dentists can offer this low-cost and pain-free alternative to patients. Together, we’re eliminating those barriers to care.”
SDF is a clear liquid that can be painted on the surface of teeth to stop the progress of tooth decay. Initially used in the 1950s to desensitize teeth, SDF was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2014 for use on tooth decay. It does not require any anesthetic and takes a fraction of the time a crown or filling would take.
Dental professionals working in health clinics, wellness centers, and mobile dental clinics for the underserved or uninsured were among the first to adopt the treatment because of its cost-effectiveness and ease of application. It is now becoming popular in private dental offices for children who cannot sit still and for patients who are afraid of the drill.
“Patients who have had excellent oral health for their entire lives can start getting decay as they get older due to medications causing dry mouth or lack of dexterity when brushing. This population is also very concerned about the cost of procedures. I’m able to provide an SDF treatment at a much lower cost with no pain and little time in the chair,” Dr. Richard Fefer, DDS, a Sun City West dentist and Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation board member.
Classified as a class II medical device, studies have shown that SDF application is very safe, with no side effects other than a black discoloration of the tooth where the solution has been applied, Delta Dental of Arizona reports.
“SDF is a very positive treatment for decay in primary teeth of young children due to patient comfort and overall experience,” said Melanie Hull, DDS, a family dentist in Phoenix and Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation board member. “Placing a drop of SDF on the decay is literally all it takes for the first treatment. It’s quick and painless. Patients can be treated in a mobile setting, such as a school or other facility. The benefits are far-reaching.”
The Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation has funded oral health clinics and programs throughout the state that use SDF treatments, including Tooth BUDDS in Eastern Arizona, El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson, and Tohono O’odham Nation Healthcare.