Health Beat

Health Beat: Fighting cavities without a dentist drill

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Not many people look forward to going to the dentist, especially children. Now, there's a new liquid doctors are using to fight cavities painlessly, without a drill.

"They're going to pull my teeth out," said 6-year-old Uriah Webb.

Just ask Uriah's mom how much they both hate the dentist's office.

"Crying, screaming, running, don't want you to look in his mouth," said Andrea Webb.

But those nightmarish appointments may be just a bad memory, even for someone with cavities, thanks to a new liquid called silver diamine fluoride. It's been used in other countries for decades, but it was only recently approved by the FDA for the United States. It's marketed as advantage arrest.

"What's so exciting about it is, it's the first time in modern history, really, that we have something that can actually arrest the decay process," detailed Dr. Scott L. Tomar, the chair of community dentistry and behavioral science at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville.

Tomar said he loves the cavity-fighting liquid. He actually teaches dental students and dentists how to use it.

"You dab a small amount onto the cavity with a tiny brush, dab it on there for about two minutes, rinse it off, air dry it," Tomar explained.

Here's how it works: Tomar said the liquid desensitizes the tooth. The anti-microbial properties also stop cavities from getting worse, and it even prevents them. Too good to be true? There is a downside. It can darken and even blacken teeth. Despite the risks, Andrea Webb said it's much better than traumatizing kids to the point they want to avoid dentists altogether.

"I see other kids's teeth that are my kid's age and they have no teeth," she said. "They are rotten down. They're gone. It's just horrible."

It's not mandatory for dentists to use silver diamine fluoride, but Tomar said parents should talk it over with their dentist.

Silver diamine fluoride is already used in hundreds of dental offices. At least 18 dental schools have started teaching the next generation of pediatric dentists how to use it. The cost generally is much lower than a filling, probably about one-fourth of the cost in most cases. It takes less chair time and fewer supplies and materials.

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