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At home and in the chair: How fluoride varnish can protect your smile

by lisap (follow)
Lisa is a dental consultant. she enjoys sharing her research and ideas through blogging. Visit www.NYFamilyPediatricDentistry.com to learn more
Hygiene (35)     
Fluoride. Itís in your toothpaste, itís in your mouthwash, it might even be in your water supply. But have you ever heard of fluoride varnish? If not, you might be missing out on the one thing that could take your smile from good to great.

Image courtesy of wikimedia.org

What The Heck Is It?

Fluoride varnish is a special form of topical varnish thatís used to prevent tooth decay. Some children have a hard time with cavities. It could be their diet. It could be poor hygiene (itís hard to get kids to brush their teeth sometimes, isnít it?). It could also be partially genetic - they could have a predisposition for certain kinds of oral bacteria or tooth density that makes it easier for cavities to develop. Teeth may not have grown in properly, making it easier for bacteria to form plaque deposits in hard-to-reach areas.

Regardless of the cause, the varnish will help harden the tooth surface and remineralize it.

How Is It Applied?

A very small piece of gauze is used to clean and dry the teeth. Then, the dentist will apply the varnish using a small brush. Yep, itís literally painted on. Typically, the dentist will pain the front, back, top and bottom of the teeth.

The varnish forms a sticky covering and becomes hard as soon as the saliva in the mouth touches it. The procedure takes less than 5 minutes, so your child wonít be squirming and wiggling for very long. This Long Island dentist performs this fluoride treatment in virtually no time at all.

What Will It Do To My Teeth?

Your teeth (or your childís teeth, if youíre having it done for your child), will turn yellow or a dull white. This is only cosmetic and temporary. You see, the varnish forms a hard shell over the teeth, infusing it with fluoride for the entire day. The next morning, when the varnish is stripped off, your teeth will be bright white.

But the varnish doesnít just produce a cosmetic improvement. Itís also functional. If your child has a cavity, it will stop the progression. If tooth decay has just started, it will reverse it and heal the tooth. If the teeth are already in good shape, it will prevent any damage from occurring.

Is It Safe?

Fluoride treatments are perfectly safe and have a long track record of use in dentistry. Because the varnish is painted onto the teeth, thereís little risk of it being swallowed.

Why Is It Used?

When children are young, they typically arenít taken to the dentist unless or until something is wrong. By that time, itís too late to take preventative measures. So, many dentists are turning to varnishes as a preventative measure, starting with babies that are very young and just cutting teeth. This way, dentists hope, children will experience fewer cavities and wonít need more extensive, expensive, and painful work later on.

The only time fluoride varnishes arenít used is when there are noticeable sores in the mouth, if thereís a known allergy to an ingredient in the varnish, or to pine nuts.

The use of fluoride is a controversial issue in Australia. If you have an opinion, please leave a comment, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Is this available in Australia and what is the cost? Also, can it done on teeth where the tooth-enamel has worn away and you have tooth coloured fillings on front teeth to fill in the gaps?
Hi Lisa
I'm sorry but I beg to differ.
Varnish cannot reverse a decay, it can only reverse a demineralization of enamel. With decay bacteria is involved and then prophylaxis cannot work.
Would ove to hear your comments
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