New caries treatment is simpler and more effective: study


February 21, 2023 | 12:05

Cavities can no longer cause holes in your teeth or burn one in your pocket.

While dental sealants have always been the preferred method for reducing the risk of cavities forming, a study has shown that there is a new technique that is just as effective, as well as more accessible and cost-effective.

Silver diamine fluoride, applied by brushing the teeth, has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities in children by 80%. Researchers at NYU College of Dentistry found that the treatment prevented cavities from getting worse in 50% of cases.

A key difference between silver diamine fluoride application and dental sealants is that fluoride application can be done by a dental nurse, while sealants are applied by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study surveyed 3,000 children at 47 different New York City schools over the course of two years. The students were of various races and mostly from low-income families, with each school randomly selecting to receive either the simple silver diamine fluoride treatment or the complex dental sealant treatment.

Treatment with silver diamine fluoride was 80% effective in preventing tooth decay.
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Trials began in 2019 but were halted by COVID-19, resuming two years later. Clinical research teams visited each school before either treatment was applied, testing for baseline level of tooth decay before applying the assigned treatment.

They found that the two treatments had almost identical effectiveness for prevention, 81% for SDF and 82% for sealants. SDF was more successful in preventing the progression of cavities, with a 56% success rate, while sealants were 46% effective.

Dr Richard Niederman, a professor at NYU College of Dentistry and lead author of the study, said one treatment proved “remarkably effective over the next two years”.

“I don’t know of any other preventative dental intervention that has had such a beneficial impact on the pandemic,” he added.

The study tested the silver diamine fluoride caries prevention treatment in 47 New York City schools.
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The study could be key to reducing the overall risk of cavities in children, especially those from lower socioeconomic areas who are twice as likely to have untreated cavities as children from high-income families.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is one of the greatest unmet health treatment needs in the United States.

If left untreated, it can cause pain and infection that can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning.

Niederman said using the SDF could significantly improve oral hygiene and quality of life for children in the United States.

But of course, dentists remind parents that treatments are not a substitute for brushing their teeth.

“Without prevention, dental cavities continually grow if left untreated,” he noted.

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