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Fighting Cavities With Fluoride Varnish

By Delaney Gracy , MD, MPH, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Children's Health Fund

As a pediatrician and a mom, I know how important it is for kids to practice proper oral health care from an early age. When teeth are not properly cared for, more critical medical problems may occur and in some extreme cases can even lead to death.

As I explained on Give Kids a Smile Day, in the low-income communities where doctors within CHF’s network serve, lack of oral health care is a huge problem and kids are suffering. Luckily, in addition to providing free, comprehensive oral health care—screening, dental exams, digital x-rays, oral health education and dental procedures—many of our programs have also implemented an easy and affordable way to help kids in low-income families keep their teeth safe and clean through the use of fluoride varnishing. Fluoride varnish is a highly concentrated form of fluoride which is applied to the tooth’s surface to help prevent cavities. It is easy to apply, extremely affordable, and is safe for/tolerated by infants, young kids and individuals with special needs. The best part though is that it is effective—several studies have shown a 25-45% reduction in the decay rate with the use of fluoride varnish.

Dental varnish is applied to the teeth with a little disposable brush.In a few easy steps, your dentist, hygienist, or primary health care provider can apply the varnish: ensure the teeth are dry, apply a thin layer of the varnish to all surfaces of the teeth with a disposable brush (almost like painting), and once the varnish comes into contact with saliva, it will harden and you are done!

If, and how often, a child needs fluoride varnish depends on many factors, including the amount of fluoride in their water supply, if they are taking vitamins with fluoride supplementation, their general oral health, and their individual risk factors.

It’s important to note that applying the varnish does not negate the importance regular visits with a dentist, or of daily dental care like brushing your teeth or flossing. It’s just another way to help in the fight against cavities….and that’s a great thing.

Has your child received the varnish application? How did he/she react? Let me know in the comments section below.