New Treatment Halts Tooth Decay Without Drilling

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Senior woman at the dentist office
RossHelen /

A new treatment promises to arrest tooth decay without drilling.

Silver diamine fluoride, an antimicrobial liquid medication, can be painted on teeth to stop decay in its tracks. The low-cost, pain-free technique is being used to treat cavities in patients who are not good candidates for fillings, such as the very young and the elderly, according to a Kaiser Health News report.

The alternate method of treating cavities is relatively new in the U.S. but has been used in other countries for decades.

It has one big drawback. According to KHN:

“Its biggest downside is that it permanently turns the decayed area black — a turnoff, in particular, for people with decay on a front tooth.”

Fortunately, dental providers can cover the black spot with tooth-colored material for an additional cost.

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved silver diamine fluoride for use in reducing tooth sensitivity. But many dentists began to use it in a so-called “off-label” manner to treat cavities, KHN reports.

While it has gained attention as a treatment for cavities in children under the age of 5, silver diamine fluoride also increasingly is used to treat cavities in older patients who either cannot make it to the dentist’s office or who do not have dental insurance and cannot afford to pay for fillings.

Dental hygienists often provide such care to seniors in nursing homes and homeless shelters, or at low-cost clinics, KHN says.

The treatment can be an effective alternative to traditional fillings. A recent study found that a single application of silver diamine fluoride stops decay in 60% to 70% of cases. Following up with a second application six months later pushes that success rate above 90%.

Finding cheap dental care

A lower cost of care is one of the big attractions of using silver diamine fluoride to treat cavities. But there are plenty of other ways to reduce your dental bills.

Money Talks News contributor Donna Freedman urges you to look for great deals advertised by dentists on social buying sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, local “shopper” newspapers and even “the ubiquitous blue envelope from Valpak.” As she writes:

“Let me bear witness to deals that do exist: While living in Seattle, I redeemed a Valpak coupon that helped me pay just $29 for cleaning, X-rays and a free teeth-whitening kit custom-made for me in the office.”

For more, check out “4 Ways to Get Free or Low-Cost Dental Care.”

Discover more ways to save on dental care in:

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.