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YOUR HEALTH: Fixing cavities without the drill

A painless treatment could soon be given a green light as a treatment for cavities in kids

Getting a cavity filled is no fun. there can be pain, shots, numbing, and the harrowing sound of the drill. 

But a kinder, gentler way to care for kids with cavities is being tested. 

And the only tool required, is a small paintbrush. 

Five-year old Skye is part of a study being conducted at three locations including the University of Iowa that is testing silver diamine flouride, or SDF. 

It's a treatment to stop cavities in children.

"So, this is a liquid that contains fluoride, silver and a high pH liquid and it's going to stop the cavities from progressing in the teeth," explained Dr. Margherita Fontana of the university of Michigan School of Dentistry.

Instead of the dreaded drill the tooth is brushed and dried. 

Then the liquid SDF is painted on for ten seconds. 

There are minimal, if any side effects.

"She was able to drink and eat something within minutes of walking out of the appointment and playing," said Skye's mother, Bethany Mattson.

Even Skye liked it.

"It makes my teeth feel sparkly."

About one quarter of kids aged two to five, have cavities. 

Half of kids aged six and eight do. 

And it's often higher in minority and lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

"It's a very cheap alternative treatment and it opens the opportunity of access to care to a variety of different groups of the population who might benefit for treatments for cavities," said Dr. Fontana.

The kids get treatments every few months, for eight months total. 

Fluoridation research

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded research initiative offers access to optimally fluoridated water for up to 19 million people in the U.S. for the first time. 

The new fluoridation method is designed to dissolve in a small amount of water, much like the chlorine tablets used in swimming pools. 

The tablet system could allow nearly 32,000 small public utilities, often in underserved, rural areas, to contribute to the national Healthy People goal of providing access to fluoridated water to 77.1% of the U.S. population by 2030.

Drinking fluoridated water has greatly improved oral health outcomes for over 75 years, keeping teeth strong and reducing cavities by about 25% in children and adults.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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