Iowa Dentistry is proud to have played a significant role in a major clinical trial funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) that has yielded promising results in the fight against childhood tooth decay.
Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A recent paper published in Pediatric Dentistry presents preliminary details about the effectiveness of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) as a topical liquid for stopping cavity progression in young children. The NIDCR-funded randomized clinical trial, led by Dr. Margherita Fontana, Clifford Nelson Endowed Professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, involved multiple institutions, including New York University and Iowa Dentistry. Dr. Steven Levy, Wright-Bush-Shreves Professor of Research at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, served as the site principal investigator at Iowa.

Steve Levy
Dr. Steven Levy

"This research could change the scope of treatments for tooth decay in children," says Dr. Levy. "We are thrilled to have been part of this collaborative effort."

Iowa Dentistry’s Role

While the NIDCR press release only highlights the role of the University of Michigan, the Iowa Dentistry site team played a critical role in the initial stages of the research. Dr. Levy worked intensively with Dr. Fontana in preparing the grant application that secured the funding and spearheaded Iowa’s involvement, collaborating with faculty members Dr. John Warren, professor of preventive and community dentistry, and Dr. Justine Kolker, professor of operative dentistry. Sara Miller and Eileen Hermiston provided instrumental support as project coordinators over the course of the study.

Challenges and Collaboration

Because of various logistical hurdles including, in part, pandemic-related challenges, patient recruitment did not meet targets at any of the three sites. As a result, it was necessary to reallocate funding.  Because Iowa was the smallest site (with no cities like New York or Detroit to recruit from), the NIDCR strategically reallocated resources to the other sites to ensure optimal study completion. Despite this, Dr. Levy remained a consultant for the project, continuing to offer his valuable expertise. The results from the clinical trial were impressive and went well beyond expectations. The invention group demonstrated such positive outcomes that the study was stopped early so that SDF could be made available sooner for all participants and others.

The Future of SDF

The published paper serves as a preliminary report, with more comprehensive analysis expected in future publications targeted for 2025-2026. The positive outcomes from this research pave the way for potential FDA approval of SDF for treating cavities in children. This approval could revolutionize access to dental care for children most in need.

Iowa Dentistry remains at the forefront of oral health research. Our dedication to collaboration and innovation contributes to meaningful advancements in children's well-being. We are excited to see the potential impact of SDF in improving oral health outcomes for children across the globe.


This research was supported by NIDCR grant UH3-DE027372. For more information about the trial, visit and search identifier NCT 03649659.