Newberg Pediatric dentist Dr. Jennifer McLeod has long made the treatment and prevention of childhood tooth decay a top priority. Untreated tooth decay ranks as the number one chronic disease among children in the U.S, and according to a study conducted by the Children Dental Health Project, 80 percent of all cavities occur in just 25 percent of children.
For many children with cavities, a combination of poor nutrition and an absence of fluoride greatly contributes to their problems with tooth decay. Too much sugar in a daily diet provides plaque – the harmful bacteria that thrives in the mouths of both kids and adults – with the fuel needed to produce harmful substances that erode away at tooth enamel. Commonly found in public water supplies and toothpaste, fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel to better withstand the effects of plaque and other harmful substances found in the mouth.
A combination of too much sugar and not enough fluoride greatly increases a child’s risk of cavities and the need for dental fillings.
Of course treating young children with cavities can present a number of unique complications. Imagine the heartbreaking struggle when trying to fill the cavities of a two or three year-old with the conventional use of a drill and porcelain fillings. A desire to help treat her younger patients in a less traumatic fashion led Dr. McLeod to use silver nitrate for years as a noninvasive means of treating tooth decay in young children.
A simple and safe chemical compound, silver nitrate has long been used in the medical field, and can treat cavities without the need for any drilling or filling. The technique simply involves brushing the silver nitrate onto the surface of a child’s tooth, and then immediately sealing the area with a fluoride varnish. Once applied the silver nitrate disinfects the area of harmful bacteria and hardens the cavity, stopping the decaying process. The treatment is fast, easy and results in far less tears.
While the use of silver nitrate has proven incredibly successful for Dr. McLeod, a new reclassification by the Food and Drug Administration now offers a new opportunity for treating childhood tooth decay.
A Tool To Fight Cavities
Silver fluoride has been used for decades by dentists in countries like Japan to treat cavities in young children. The compound combines the powers of two elements that have long been a part of dental care: Silver – long used in dental fillings for its antimicrobial properties – and fluoride, which hardens tooth enamel. When combined together with ammonia – which acts as a stabilizing agent – silver fluoride can be easily applied to the surface of a child’s teeth where it seals the cavity and prevents further tooth decay.
While the use of silver nitrate offered Dr. McLeod a painless way to treat childhood decay, it served as a solution to the symptom, not the cause. Studies have found that children who require a filling have a 70 percent chance of coming back within one year with more cavities. However, with the recent FDA approval for the use of silver fluoride, dentists like Dr. McLeod now have a new tool at their disposal for not only treating cavities but also preventing future tooth decay in kids.
The Benefits of Silver Fluoride
The dental community has known of sliver fluoride and silver nitrate since the late 19th century. However, the use of both compounds fell out of favor with dentists after the invention of local anesthesia, which allowed dentists to begin drilling teeth to remove cavities. Once dentists had the ability to numb teeth, the benefits of silver fluoride and silver nitrate were largely ignored.
While most cases of a compound finally receiving FDA approval generally means a heavy financial push by a major pharmaceutical company, no one bankrolled the campaign for silver fluoride’s approval. The FDA approval was primarily spurred on by the inherent benefits the use of silver fluoride provides younger patients. Unlike contemporary means of treating childhood decay, silver fluoride offers the potential for not only treating cavities, but also for preventing future cavities from developing.
Newberg pediatric dentist Dr. Jennifer McLeod remains dedicated to providing her patients with the latest, most advanced dental care. At Newberg Family Dental, you can trust that we will continue to provide our patients with the best care available for patients of all ages.