Fluoride Varnish

It’s painful to drink a cold beverage or eat your favorite ice cream. You even struggle with the simple act of brushing your  teeth with cold water. Every dentist and dental hygienist across the nation knows the answer: Fluoride. When it comes to research, the evidence is showing time and time again that fluoride varnish far outweighs the risk of cavities and decay.

Fluoride Varnish: A History

For nearly 50 years, dental professionals have been employing the power of fluoride. With each version of fluoride, an improvement was made. It became less messy to apply, it tasted a little bit better, and it started to be more convenient to apply.

Fluoride Varnish: The Benefits

Ease of Application

One of the biggest benefits to both dental professionals and patients is how quickly fluoride varnish can be applied and how easy it is to apply it.  It takes less than one minute.

Long-Term Effectiveness

A second significant advantage to fluoride varnish can be seen very clearly in research studies. The level of efficacy that varnish provides is far superior than no fluoride treatment at all. This finding can be applied to every fluoride varnish application from early cavities in baby teeth to recently erupted permanent teeth to even white spot lesions and cavities in adults.

Varnishes reduce dental caries by anywhere from 50% to 70% across the board. For individuals who are moderate to high-risk for dental decay, this additional benefit can make a massive difference in long-term dental care.

Duration of Treatment

Beyond the benefit of enhanced strength with varnish, it is also ten times as effective at lessening the amount of decay when compared to regular fluoride containing toothpaste. Fluoride varnish extends its efficacy through the fact that it is sticky. This means that it will remain on the tooth for much longer , allowing the patient to eat and drink soon after application while also allowing the fluoride to continue being absorbed by the tooth. In fact, when the varnish comes into contact with saliva it hardens and can stay on the tooth and continue to be absorbed for up to seven days.

Lower Risks

Then there is the advantage of being able to use fluoride varnish without having the risk of dental fluorosis, which can not only discolor the teeth but also cause physical damage. Because the varnish is applied directly to the teeth, it is able to set very quickly. This stickiness allows the varnish to adhere to the teeth, and not only is less of the substance used but the minimal amount that is used is less likely to be swallowed. This reduction in the risk of swallowing fluoride also enables dental practitioners to apply fluoride to children under the age of 6, which is not safe with other fluoride application methods. In fact, applying fluoride varnish to children’s teeth is so safe that the United States Preventative Services Task Force has recommended to primary care physicians that, in an effort to prevent dental caries, they should apply fluoride varnish to all of the primary teeth of children under the age of five.


Another aspect of fluoride varnish that makes applying fluoride on children’s teeth easier for a dental professional and more comfortable for the child is the fact that the varnishes come in many different flavors. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends fluoride varnish treatments beginning at initial tooth eruption.

Gag Reflex-Friendly

Alongside the advantage of fluoride application to young children, individuals who suffer from a strong gag reflex may also utilize the powerful effects of fluoride application. With fluoride varnish the fluoride can be applied directly to the teeth.


There is also the matter of cost-effectiveness. You must be aware of the cost and reward of various services. As previously stated, the fluoride varnish takes significantly less time to apply.  A fluoride varnish under $40 is much less expensive than replacing a filling or crown which reaches the $300 – $2,000 price range.

Recommendations from Experts

At the end of the day, the research speaks for itself. Fluoride varnish has greater efficacy when it comes to accomplishing what it is meant to accomplish: Treating sensitive teeth and reducing the rate of dental caries.

Jeffrey L. Angart, DDS

References: Today’s RDH.com / AAP.org / ADA.org / PubMed


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