Study Finds New Treatment To Prevent Cavities Is Easier, More Effective


By Emily Lefroy

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

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

Silver diamine fluoride, applied by brushing it onto the teeth, has proven to lower the risk of cavities in children by 80%. Researchers from NYU College of Dentistry found the treatment stopped cavities from getting worse in 50% of the situations.

A pivotal difference between the application of silver diamine fluoride and dental sealants is the fluoride application can be done by a dental nurse, whereas sealants are applied by a dentist or dental hygienist.

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

The trials began in 2019 but were disrupted by COVID-19, picking up again two years later. The clinical research teams visited each school before either treatment was applied, testing the baseline level of the tooth decay before applying the assigned treatment.

They found both treatments were nearly identical in efficacy for prevention, 81% for SDF and 82% for sealants. SDF was more successful in stopping cavities from progressing, with a 56% success rate while sealants were 46% effective.

Dr. Richard Niederman, an NYU College of Dentistry professor and the study’s senior author, said one treatment proved “remarkably effective over the following two-year period.”

“I know of no other dental preventive intervention that had this great a beneficial impact across the pandemic,” he added.

The study could be vital in reducing the overall risk of cavities in children, particularly ones in low socioeconomic areas who are twice as likely to have untreated cavities compared to children in higher-income families.

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

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


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