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Module 4: Anticipatory Guidance, Fluoride Varnish, and Referral

4.2 Fluoride Varnish

Applying varnish
Photo: Used with permission from American Academy of Pediatrics. 2008. Oral Health Risk Assessment: Training for Pediatricians and Other Child Health Professionals. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most fluoride varnishes are lacquers containing 5 percent sodium fluoride or 0.1 percent difluorosilane. Relatively new in the United States, fluoride varnish has been used widely for over 30 years in Canada and Europe. Fluoride varnish has been found effective in preventing caries in permanent teeth. More recently it has been shown to prevent or reduce caries in primary teeth.4

Fluoride varnish has several advantages over other professionally applied fluorides. These include:

  • Does not require special dental equipment
  • Has a pleasant taste and is well tolerated by infants, young children, and children with special health care needs
  • Is easy to apply
  • Adheres to tooth surface for several hours
  • Penetrates plaque and does not require a professional cleaning beforehand
  • Has negligible ingestion with low risk of developing fluorosis in permanent teeth
  • Is inexpensive
  • Application requires minimal training and takes little time
  • Pre-measured single-dose containers ensure dispensing the correct amount