Parents of young children will do anything, anything – short of having their kids brush their teeth regularly and not eat sweets – to avoid a dentist drilling away a cavity on their child’s teeth.

The problem has become acute because 25% of today kids 2 to 5 years old have cavities! (This would be an ideal time to lecture parents about good oral hygiene but for the fact we all know the screaming that occurs when you pull a Coco Cola can away from a four year old and insert a toothbrush. It can stop an elephant. )

So up till now, parents have been faced with unenviable choices: hold the child down while the dentist injects her with Novocain and then drills away, or actually put her in the hospital, sedate her and then drill out the cavities. But if an oral infection is causing the cavity, there’s nothing about the standard treatment that kills the underlying bacteria. So some kids have to undergo the hospital procedure twice.

But now a treatment from Japan has made its way to the United States. It’s an antimicrobial liquid that can be brushed on cavities to stop tooth decay – painlessly. It’s called silver diamine fluoride, a liquid that when a tiny, tiny amount is applied to a cavity it stops it in its tracks. And kills the bacteria underneath it. Silver diamine fluoride can even prevent cavities. It has been used for 80 years in Japan by some two million smiling Japanese. And wouldn’t you smile if you could avoid the drill?

Seriously, this is a huge development in pediatric dentistry. The problem is not every pediatric dentist knows about this procedure. But many are learning. So before you resort to extreme measures about your kid’s cavities, call around. Your child’s teeth don’t need a drill. Just a tiny, tiny paintbrush.