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The Evidence

Fluoride Varnish Prevents Tooth Decay

If tooth decay is nearly 100% preventable, why do so many children suffer from dental problems?

Most children lack access to early preventive dental services. The two most effective ways to prevent tooth decay are:

  • Fluoride Toothpaste (daily)
  • Fluoride Varnish (from a medical or dental provider)

Research shows that children who receive at least four applications of fluoride varnish before age four have lower rates of tooth decay (18-59% less caries according to the USPSTF review of the evidence).

More decay is prevented the earlier children start receiving fluoride varnish. That’s why many providers are working to assure that children get at least 4 fluoride varnish applications by age 4 years – “4 by 4”. 

Why apply fluoride varnish in a medical setting?

Fluoride varnish (5% sodium fluoride) is an effective tool to use in the prevention of tooth decay in children. It works by lowering cavity-causing oral bacterial levels and repairing and strengthening teeth.

Fluoride varnish is the standard topical fluoride treatment for children below the age of 6 years. It has been endorsed by the following organizations:

American Dental Association

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Academy of Family Practice

Additionally, in May 2014, the US Preventive Services Task Force released the following Recommendation (grade B):

Primary care clinicians should apply fluoride varnish to the primary teeth of all infants and children starting at the age of primary tooth eruption [and continue until the 6th birthday]. Read more here.

Fluoride varnish is easy, safe and quick to apply and is well tolerated by children.