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Parents often worry about the teeth of their children getting decayed and look for methods of prevention. One of the most successful and widespread used methods is the use of fluoride varnish. Here is everything you need to know about it.

Dental diseases such as tooth decay are very widespread and affect a majority of the population around the world. In most places, dental treatment can be very expensive and is often perceived as being painful (although that is no longer the case).

These are two of the primary reasons why people want to prevent dental diseases from striking in the first place. No vaccines exist against tooth decay, gum disease, or any of the other dental problems. No medicines can be given to treat these diseases, either. In dentistry, the role of antibiotics or other medicines is purely supplemental.

Prevention of dental caries basically involves brushing the teeth twice a day and getting regular professional cleaning. One of the few things that have been proven to be very effective in preventing tooth decay from occurring at all is professional fluoride treatment. Here are some things that every parent should know.

1. What is fluoride treatment for the teeth?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is often added to water sources or found in other foods. There is a lot of research to prove, beyond any doubt, what kinds of benefits of fluoride have for dental health. Fluoride helps strengthen the existing tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to acid attack from decay-causing bacteria.

Fluoride can be provided to people in two forms: systemic or topical. Systemic is through absorption in the body from water and other foods, while topical means a direct application of fluoride to the teeth. The latter method includes the use of fluoride gel, foam, or varnish.

2. Fluoride varnish for children

One thing that is common to all of the topical methods of professional fluoride application is that they have a very high concentration of fluoride. They also do not taste very nice and applying them to the teeth of young children can be a bit tricky. Fluoride varnish has been clinically proven to be an effective method of preventing dental caries in children (and in adults). It is also the easiest to apply and tolerate, which provides a big advantage for use in children.

3. Do all children require fluoride varnish application?

A number of studies done into the clinical practice of fluoride varnish have concluded that children categorized as being at a moderate to high risk of developing tooth decay benefit from fluoride varnish application. For a child categorized as being at low risk for fluoride application, the benefits may not be many but there are no downsides either.

4. How often should fluoride varnish be applied to children’s teeth?

In general, if the dentist feels that the patient is at high risk for developing tooth decay, then fluoride varnish application is recommended every three months. If the patient falls in the moderate risk category then fluoride application should be done every six months.

The time around which the child’s permanent teeth start to erupt is a particularly important time to prevent tooth decay. This is why the ages of six, eight, nine, and 11 are common ones where the use of professional fluoride varnish is highly recommended.

One fluoride application per year is not believed to be beneficial but two or more have been shown to be clinically significant in preventing tooth decay by multiple independent studies.

5. Are there any risks involved with fluoride varnish application?

Fluoride varnish is absolutely safe when used in the correct manner and under professional supervision. It is used in children around the world without any complications.

6. How is fluoride varnish applied to the teeth?

The process of fluoride application is very simple. The dentist just needs to dry the mouth and place some cotton to isolate the area. The fluoride varnish is then applied on to a soft applicator tip and then painted on to the teeth.

The area has to be kept isolated for about a minute after the fluoride varnish has been applied. That’s it.

7. What care has to be taken after fluoride varnish application?

The dentist may advise against brushing for a few hours (or until the next morning) after fluoride application. Eating and drinking are also to be avoided for an hour or so after the procedure. The fluoride varnish hardens on coming in contact with saliva and although your child may be able to feel a different taste in the mouth, the fluoride is not going to get dislodged from the teeth.

In some children, the color of the teeth can start to become a little yellowish or "dull" after repeated fluoride varnish applications.

Conclusion

The use of fluoride varnish on the teeth is a globally accepted practice that has been proven to reduce the occurrence of tooth decay over decades. This effect is applicable for both adults and children, although, it is more needed and more effective in children.

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