When should fluoride varnishes be used?

May 27, 2005
Question focuses on whether varnishes can be used on decalcified surfaces.

Do you recommend fluoride varnishes for decalcified surfaces? Or are varnishes mainly for localized root sensitivity?

Response from Karen Kaiser: Fluoride varnish works well on decalcified surfaces where demineralization (white spot) early caries lesions have initiated. Research has shown how varnish may be an inhibitor for decay and, when applied to areas of demineralization, aid in remineralizing incipient caries. Use fluoride varnish for high caries individuals and orthodontics where plaque idles on the brackets. (Consider a more frequent application interval of three or six months on at-risk patients.) The varnishes available are increasingly easier to apply, especially with the single-dosage units and tiny filament applicators. One will find uniform delivery of the fluoride allowing a more even distribution and improved predictability than from the straight from the tube varnishes. With generally pleasing flavors and now "nearly colorless" formulas, patients will be pleased with the process.

Karen Kaiser, RDH, is the author of the Hygiene Touch column in Woman Dentist Journal and RDH magazine. She is a 2002 Butler/RDH Award of Distinction recipient and a CRA Evaluator

Further reference: Seppa L,Hauser H,et al,Effects of a Sodium Fluoride Varnish on the Process of Initial Caries Lesions,Scand J Dent Res 91:96-98,1983

Beltran-Aguilar E.D.,Goldstein J.W.,Lockwood S.A, Fluoride Varnishes: A Review of their clinical use, cariostatic mechanism, efficacy, and safety. Jam Dent Assoc.131:589-96, 2000