To prevent tooth decay, try a fluoride varnish

February 10, 2006

According to a study by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, fluoride varnish reduces the incidence of early childhood tooth decay in combination with dental health counseling for parents.

According to a study by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, fluoride varnish reduces the incidence of early childhood tooth decay in combination with dental health counseling for parents.

The investigators examined cavity-free infants and young children. All families received counseling on dental health, and children were randomized into three groups: those receiving fluoride varnish twice a year, those receiving it once a year, and those not receiving it at all.

According to the study findings, published in the February issue of the Journal of Dental Research, children who did not receive any fluoride varnish were more than twice as likely to develop tooth decay as the children who were assigned to the annual fluoride group, and were nearly four times more likely to develop tooth decay than those assigned to receive it twice a year.

Jane Weintraub, DDS, MPH, Lee Hysan Professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry and principal investigator on the study, says that there are two important points that parents should be aware of as a result of the study.

"First, the results support the use of fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay in very young children. Second, the results support parents bringing children for their first dental visit at age one when they are getting their first teeth."

Fluoride varnish is a resin containing concentrate fluoride that is brushed on teeth. It is meant to enhance the potential therapeutic benefit on fluoride by keeping the tooth enamel in contact with it. It has been shown to help prevent tooth decay for older school-age children who have their permanent teeth. According to the investigators, this was the first randomized study of children as young as six months of age, and it shows the efficacy of fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay in young children's primary teeth.