Avoiding the Drill: Dental Practitioners Increasing Use of Silver Diamine Fluoride Treatments

Delta Dental of Arizona begins reimbursement for painless cavity treatment procedure 


GLENDALE, Ariz. (Oct. 29, 2019) - So long dental drills and needles. A topical treatment is gaining traction as an effective, pain-free way to stop cavities in Arizonans both young and old.

Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) is a clear liquid that can be painted on the surface of teeth to stop the progress of tooth decay. Initially used in the 1950s to desensitize teeth, SDF was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 for use on tooth decay. Dental professionals working in health clinics, wellness centers and mobile dental clinics for the underserved or uninsured were among the first to adopt the treatment because of its cost effectiveness and ease of application. Now the treatment is becoming popular in private dental offices as an option for patients who may be afraid of the drill or who cannot sit still long enough for a filling.

In 2019, Delta Dental of Arizona began reimbursing for SDF treatments. Reports through June 30 show that 151 dentists within the Delta Dental network have used the trending treatment with more than 1,200 applications to patients.

“Arizonans cite dental anxiety and worries about cost as the two key reasons for not going to the dentist,” said Allan Allford, president/CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona. “By adding SDF as a covered benefit, more dentists can offer this low-cost and painfree alternative to patients. Together, we’re eliminating those barriers to care.”

The procedure itself is very simple, does not require any anesthetic and takes a fraction of the time that a filling or crown would take, making it ideal for children and adults with severe decay.

“Patients who have had excellent oral health for their entire lives can start getting decay as they get older due to medications causing dry mouth or lack of dexterity when brushing. This population is also very concerned about the cost of procedures. I’m able to provide an SDF treatment at a much lower cost with no pain and little time in the chair,” said Dr. Richard Fefer, a Sun City West dentist and Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation board member.

Classified as a class II medical device, studies have shown that SDF application is very safe, with no side effects other than a black discoloration of the tooth where the solution has been applied.

”SDF is a very positive treatment for decay in primary teeth of young children due to patient comfort and overall experience,” said Dr. Melanie Hull, a family dentist in Phoenix and Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation board member. “Placing a drop of SDF on the decay is literally all it takes for the first treatment. It’s quick and painless. Patients can be treated in a mobile setting, such as a school or other facility. The benefits are far-reaching.”

Delta Dental of Arizona, through its Foundation, has also funded oral health clinics and programs throughout the state that use SDF treatments, including Tooth B.U.D.D.S. in Eastern Arizona, El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson and Tohono O’odham Nation Healthcare


About Delta Dental of Arizona
Delta Dental of Arizona is the leading dental benefits provider in Arizona, serving more than 1.2 million enrollees and more than 3,500 contracted dentists across the state. Passionate about oral health and its importance to generations of families, Delta Dental of Arizona has worked for more than 45 years to improve oral health by emphasizing preventive care and making dental coverage accessible to a wide variety of employers, groups and individuals. For more information about Delta Dental of Arizona, visit www.deltadentalaz.com.