Silver diamine fluoride halts cavities in school program

by Shura Guseva

A groundbreaking study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, reveals the remarkable effectiveness of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) in preventing tooth decay among elementary school students. This research underscores SDF’s potential to revolutionize cavity prevention and treatment programs, offering a cost-effective alternative to conventional methods.

Silver diamine fluoride halts cavities in school program

Led by NYU College of Dentistry, the CariedAway initiative, the largest school-based cavity prevention study in the nation, has demonstrated the efficacy of SDF, paving the way for enhanced access to dental care and reduced healthcare costs. The inclusion of SDF in school-based cavity prevention programs not only diversifies treatment options but also underscores the pivotal role of healthcare professionals, including dental hygienists and registered nurses, in addressing oral health inequities.

Dental cavities, a prevalent chronic ailment among children, have long posed significant health challenges, ranging from discomfort to academic performance issues. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have advocated for school sealant programs as a preventive measure, providing a protective coating to thwart decay. However, the emergence of SDF offers a compelling alternative, with researchers highlighting its affordability and efficacy.

“Our longitudinal study reaffirms that both sealants and SDF are effective against cavities. SDF is a promising alternative that can support school-based cavity prevention – not to replace the dental sealant model, but as another option that also prevents and arrests decay,” said Ryan Richard Ruff, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of epidemiology & health promotion at NYU College of Dentistry and the study’s first author.

The CariedAway initiative, spearheaded by NYU College of Dentistry, enrolled over 4,000 elementary school students in New York City, conducting a comprehensive study over a four-year period to assess the efficacy of SDF and sealants. The research demonstrated a remarkable reduction in cavity incidence and progression.

“Our study demonstrated that SDF can prevent cavities from happening in the first place,” noted Tamarinda Barry Godín, DDS, MPH, associate program director and supervising dentist for CariedAway, research scientist at NYU College of Dentistry, and the study’s co-author. Furthermore, the study sheds light on the potential of leveraging school nurses in cavity prevention efforts, suggesting a broader role for the nursing workforce in oral health initiatives.

“Nurses may be an untapped resource for addressing oral health inequities,” added Ruff. “Our results suggest that nurses can effectively provide this preventive care, which could dramatically improve access, given the role of school nurses and the size of the nursing workforce.” Moving forward, the integration of SDF into school-based oral health programs holds promise in mitigating childhood cavities, underscoring the importance of innovative approaches in public health interventions.

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