Tooth decay in older children and adults is declining, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case in younger children’s teeth. It has been shown that the rate of tooth decay in children age three or under has barely changed at all. One possible treatment that could help prevent tooth decay in young children is the application of fluoride varnish.
A German study discovered that approximately 14% of all three-year-old’s have tooth decay affecting their milk teeth. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in dental plaque, a sticky biofilm that builds up over tooth surfaces each day. The bacteria in dental plaque feed on sugary foods and drinks, producing acid as a by-product which can erode tooth enamel, gradually causing cavities.
It’s especially problematic for young children because their tooth enamel is not quite as hard as the enamel of older children and adults, so it’s more susceptible to decay. One problem when young children have tooth decay is that their permanent teeth can also become infected. Another problem is trying to encourage good oral hygiene routine is in young children.
During a recent study, some young children were treated with fluoride varnish while another group received no treatment. In addition to using fluoride applications, advice on oral hygiene was offered to parents, including using the proper brushing techniques, and fluoridated toothpaste and toothbrushes were provided. Some children were followed up on for two years while others were followed for three years. Researchers discovered that using fluoride varnish has its advantages, especially when used to protect primary or milk teeth.
Tooth decay in primary teeth was less prevalent when fluoride varnish was applied, and it’s estimated that using fluoride varnish could prevent tooth decay in about 10% of children. It’s also thought that using fluoride varnish would help to prevent the progression of tooth decay in other children, and it doesn’t matter if a child already has tooth decay or if their teeth are entirely cavity free.
What Is Fluoride Varnish?
Fluoride varnish is an extremely safe and effective treatment that is frequently used by pediatric dentists worldwide, and it can work very well in helping to prevent tooth decay in young children. It is a topical application of fluoride, meaning fluoride is applied directly to tooth surfaces where it can penetrate the tooth enamel more efficiently, helping to protect the enamel against decay, and the varnish also helps to harden the enamel. It is frequently prescribed to help prevent any new cavities from forming in children’s teeth.
Using fluoride varnish can help to prevent tooth decay by aiding remineralization of the tooth enamel. If a child already has a cavity or signs of lesions in their tooth enamel, for example, white spots or areas of de-calcification, fluoride varnish can help to slow down and even repair these signs. It’s also a treatment that is safe for use quite frequently, and a pediatric dentist may recommend fluoride applications every three months.
How Is It Applied?
Fluoride varnish is quick and easy to apply, and it’s entirely painless. Your child’s teeth will be professionally cleaned beforehand, and their pediatric dentist may want to take a quick look at their teeth to make sure they don’t have any signs of tooth decay. Once your child’s teeth are clean, they are thoroughly dried, and the fluoride varnish is painted onto their teeth where it will quickly harden. Afterward, all your child need do is to refrain from eating or drinking anything for half an hour after treatment. That’s it! The fluoride varnish will remain on their teeth until they next brush their teeth.
Sometimes your kid’s dentist may recommend they don’t brush their teeth until the following morning to give the fluoride varnish longer to penetrate their tooth enamel. Otherwise, they may suggest brushing that night, a few hours after treatment. While the fluoride varnish is on their teeth, you might notice their teeth look a little yellower than before. This is perfectly normal, and their teeth will look just fine once brushed. When they do brush their teeth, make sure they use good quality fluoride toothpaste, and if they currently take fluoride supplements then check with your pediatric dentist to see if your child should stop taking them for a couple of days after fluoride applications.
What about Silver Diamine Fluoride?
You might have heard about another type of dental fluoride which is called silver diamine fluoride, and which is another minimally invasive treatment that can help prevent cavities in children’s teeth. It’s a treatment that can help to halt the progression of tooth decay in children’s teeth and silver diamine fluoride has been used for quite some time in Europe. Some dentists may also use it as a diagnostic tool because it stains defects in teeth such as tiny lesions that indicate tooth decay. Silver diamine fluoride can be useful for cavities in children’s primary teeth, but it’s not a treatment that is available at every pediatric dental office.
Other Preventative Dental Care Strategies
Fluoride applications are only one treatment that can be provided by your kid’s pediatric dentist. In fact, they are more likely to suggest a multifaceted approach towards maintaining excellent dental health. Using a combination of different treatments and strategies can often be the best and most effective way to help your kid grow up with healthy, strong and cavity-free teeth.
To do this, your kid’s dentist can work with you, providing you with lots of information on the proper brushing and flossing techniques. Anyone who has ever tried to brush a young child’s teeth when they are feeling less than cooperative will appreciate this advice. Sometimes knowing a few different tips and tricks can make all the difference in maintaining a happy and harmonious home. Their advice will also ensure that you clean your child’s teeth correctly. You can also get advice about which types of toothbrushes and toothpaste are best to use and whether your child could benefit from fluoride supplements.
Dietary advice can help tremendously as these days we are bombarded with products that are marketed as being healthy and organic, but which may not be so great for teeth. Knowing which ingredients can be harmful and are best avoided is extremely useful.