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A Simple Strategy for Preventing Tooth Decay: Fluoride Varnish

We have fluoridated water in most of Salt Lake County including Herriman, Riverton, and South Jordan. As a dentist in Herriman I see less tooth decay here in Herriman, Utah than I did in Orem where I practiced for over 10 years and one of the reasons why is that they don’t fluoridate the water in Utah County. Also many of us have fluoride in the toothpaste we use. However we also have a high level of sugar consumption, and many of us drink water filtered with reverse osmosis which removes the fluoride from the water we drink. If you have ever had dental decay and like to eat sugar then fluoride varnish is one of several effective strategies to help prevent cavities.

Fluoride varnish has a high concentration of fluoride combined with a sticky resin that helps the fluoride stay on the teeth for a longer period of time. The sticky resin is important because fluoride normally would not stay on the teeth long enough to help strengthen the enamel. The longer the fluoride stays in contact with the teeth the more effective it is at preventing decay. Fluoride varnish has become the preferred method for professional fluoride delivery because it stays on the teeth for hours and gives it a chance to strengthen the enamel to make it more resistant to future decay.

An analysis of 22 clinical trials from the Cochrane database of systematic reviews showed that the average reduction in cavities was 43% among children and teenagers. For kids and teenagers with newly emerging teeth the fluoride is the most beneficial because the newly emerged enamel is more likely to absorb the fluoride and give the tooth a lifetime benefit of less potential for decay. Adults can benefit from fluoride varnish too but we see the greatest impact for putting fluoride on kids and teenagers.

Fluoride incorporates itself into the crystallized structure of hydroxyapatite which makes up our enamel and makes it stronger and less susceptible to attack by the acids which bacteria produce and which we consume in our diets.

Many insurance plans cover fluoride varnish treatment but even if they don’t fluoride is a cost effective and good way to prevent cavities. Even if you prevent one cavity by having fluoride varnish placed on your teeth it pays for itself by saving you money from more expensive fillings or crowns. Also fluoride saves you the hassle of having to get your teeth worked on more in the future.

Some of us have a higher than average risk for cavities due to genetics, our love of sweets, or our dislike of using floss. For those of us who are at a higher risk for cavities it has also been shown to be beneficial to apply fluoride varnish even more frequently than every 6 months. While insurance does not typically cover it for more than once every 6 months sometimes putting it on every 3 months

Fluoride is beneficial but not the only strategy we can use for preventing tooth decay. Avoiding sugar, brushing, flossing, and even oral probiotics can be used to help prevent tooth decay. Come in to our office for a cleaning and consultation and we are happy to share with you strategies that could help you save money and keep your teeth healthy.

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