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Does SDF stain teeth?

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

As dentists, we are often asked if silver diamine fluoride (SDF) stains teeth. The short answer is yes – and no. In this blog post, we will explore the various factors that need to be taken into account when considering SDF as a treatment option for tooth decay and how it interacts with teeth. We'll look at what causes SDF to cause staining, when it's beneficial to use despite the potential discoloration, and lastly alternative treatments that don't pose any risk of staining. Knowing this information can help you make an informed decision about whether or not using silver diamine fluoride is right for your patients' smiles.


What is SDF and why it might stain your patient's teeth


SDF stands for silver diamine fluoride, a dental treatment that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is a liquid that is applied to the teeth to help prevent cavities and treat tooth decay. SDF is highly effective in preventing further decay, but it may leave a dark black or brown stain on the treated teeth. This is because SDF contains silver ions that can bind with the proteins in teeth, resulting in a dark, almost black, discoloration. Despite this potential side effect, many dental professionals continue to use SDF as it is a minimally invasive and cost-effective solution for patients with cavities or tooth decay.


Does SDF actually stain teeth, or is this just an urban myth


For years, dentists have been concerned about the staining effects of SDF (silver diamine fluoride) on teeth. While some discoloration will occur, especially if the teeth already have existing decay, the benefits of SDF in preventing and healing cavities may outweigh any minor staining. It is important to note that SDF is not a cosmetic treatment, but rather a powerful tool in preventing tooth decay and improving overall oral health.


There are two ways to reduce staining. One is to use a product that has potassium iodide (KI) as a second step after the SDF is applied. Applying KI for 90 seconds can help reduce the staining. It works by precipitating out the silver ions and forming silver iodide. This reduces the amount of silver that binds to the tooth, and thus reduces staining.


A second way is to mask the stain with a dental material. There are many materials on the market that can be used to block out discoloration. When working with kids it may be simplest to just place a glass ionomer over the cavitation if the patient has lost enough tooth structure to retain the material. There will be some dark shadowing through the margins; however, it won't appear as dark as if the staining wasn't covered up.


What can you do if your patient's teeth have been stained by SDF use


If you suspect that your patient's teeth have been stained by Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) use, there are a few options you can consider. One is conventional treatment to remove the stain and the remaining decay in the tooth. This may not always be possible in young children without considering sedation. So a second option may be masking the staining with a dental material as covered above.

In conclusion, while the use of SDF can stain teeth, this discoloration is greatly reduced by applying KI as a second step. It is important to understand that may not always be possible especially on young and pre-cooperative children. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of SDF with your patients before selecting the treatment modality.

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