Author-Dr Aparna Pandya (Mrs India Vivacious 2019)
Fluoride is a mineral which helps strengthen tooth enamel, thereby making teeth more resistant to decay. Fluoride is added to the water supply in some areas, and is found in many children's toothpaste.
Fluoride varnish is a preventive measure against dental caries which helps keep teeth healthy. It's routinely offered to children but can be used on adults as well. Fluoride varnish is, as the name suggests, is a liquid or gel which contains a high concentration of fluoride. A thin layer is applied directly to the teeth, which then hardens and releases fluoride into the enamel.
Regular fluoride varnish application reduces the risk of cavities. It's particularly effective for children who are at high risk of decay. Applying fluoride varnish can also help reverse early signs of tooth decay (white spot lesions).Fluoride varnish treatment is quick, simple, and non-invasive.
Having said that, although fluoride varnish is a very safe and widely practised treatment, it is not indicated for everyone.
Over-exposure to fluoride leads to a condition popularly known as dental fluorosis, which results in discolouration or white spots on the teeth while they are developing. However, the amount of fluoride exposure from varnish treatment shouldn't pose a significant risk because it is applied topically and not ingested. This is why it is particularly important to ensure that your child spits out all excess toothpaste after brushing – especially in the days following fluoride varnish treatment. If they regularly swallow fluoride toothpaste, the risk of fluorosis increases.
Fluoride varnish for adults can also be beneficial for adults who have sensitive teeth, have thin tooth enamel or significant enamel erosion, or have chronic tooth decay.
Fluoride varnish application
Children can be treated with fluoride varnish every six months from age 3.
The application process slightly varies for children and adults. For children, the teeth is first dried followed by the application of the varnish with a small brush to coat the teeth. For adults, an oral prophylaxis is performed before drying them and applying the varnish.
In any case, the fluoride varnish application itself should take no more than a minute or two, and it is completely pain-free.
The varnish has a golden yellow colour, which means that the teeth may appear yellow for a while after application, which will fade after a day or two and won't stain teeth permanently.
The varnish will wear away and completely go off within a few days, however by then, the fluoride would have already penetrated the dental enamel and will continue to protect the teeth for several months. Fluoride varnish should be re-applied every six months.
Fluoride varnish application is an effective way to prevent dental caries and promote tooth remineralization, for both children and adults. However, it is equally important to brush twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and age-suitable kid's toothbrush and minimise consumption of sugary snacks and drinks, to maintain proper oral hygiene and for longer lasting healthy teeth and gums.
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