Children tend to have a difficult time maintaining a clean mouth. And an unclean mouth can lead to a host of dental problems, including tooth decay. With that in mind, researchers recently set out to see if fluoride varnish was effective and safe for preventing tooth decay in children and teens.
Fluoride varnish is a form of fluoride that is applied to a tooth’s surface by a dentist or dental hygienist in order to prevent tooth decay.
A recent study found that fluoride varnish significantly reduced the amount of tooth decay in both temporary and permanent teeth of children up to 16 years of age.
According to this study, patients can combat tooth decay by having their dentist apply fluoride varnish to their teeth during each check-up.
"See a dentist regularly to help prevent tooth decay."
Helen Worthington, MD, PhD, of the Cochrane Oral Health Group, School of Dentistry, The University of Manchester, and colleagues aimed to determine whether or not fluoride varnish effectively prevented tooth decay.
The researchers compared the teeth of children and teenagers up to 16 years of age who did and did not have fluoride varnish applied to their teeth. This study found that the children and teenagers who had fluoride varnish applied to their teeth had less tooth decay than those who did not.
This study consisted of 22 trials and 12,455 participants. These trials were published between 1975 and 2012. Each trial examined how well fluoride varnish prevented tooth decay for one to five years.
Whether or not fluoride varnish worked was determined by measuring the change of tooth decay in both children and adolescents. In each study, fluoride varnish was applied two to four times a year. Twelve of the trials documented patients for only two years.
The review of previous studies found that fluoride varnish reduced the risk for tooth decay in children and teens. Fluoride varnish appeared to reduce the risk for tooth decay of both baby teeth and permanent teeth. The severity of tooth decay prior to application affected how well the fluoride varnish worked.
A total of 13 of the 22 trials contributed data on how well fluoride varnish was at preventing tooth decay of permanent teeth, and 10 of the trials contributed data on how well fluoride varnish was at preventing tooth decay of baby teeth.
The researchers found that young adults who had fluoride varnish applied to missing and filled teeth experienced a 43 percent decrease in tooth decay. The 10 trials that treated children found that the application of fluoride varnish reduced tooth decay in baby teeth by 37 percent.
The review had little information regarding negative side effects associated with fluoride varnish.
Although this study suggests fluoride varnish can help reduce tooth decay in children and teenagers, further research is needed.
Dr. Worthington and her colleagues explained why these studies are most needed: “This is particularly important as nearly all child populations in high-income countries are exposed to some source of fluoride, notably in toothpaste, and adverse effects may be rare (such as acute fluoride toxicity) or more subtle (such as mild fluorosis).”
This study was published on July 11 in The Cochrane Library. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.