Faced with a lifelong history of cavities, it is utterly reasonable to ask yourself what you could be doing differently to avoid those cavity-filled dental visits in the future. You may also find yourself wondering if there is something you could be doing to help your children avoid a lifetime of the same dental discomfort that has plagued you for so long. These are good questions to consider.
With a growing understanding of how the cavity disease process works, dentists are able to offer progressively more effective treatments to prevent cavities from developing. Fluoride has been in the dental toolbox for a while, so if you are trying to benefit from the most up to date methods of oral care, you may find yourself asking if dental fluoride still has a place in the modern dental toolbox and works to strengthen teeth.
The short answer is yes.
A look at the science behind using professional dentist applied fluoride varnishes consistently finds that fluoride is a cavity fighting powerhouse. A study from 2015, reported by the NIH, found that after six months of treatment with topical sodium fluoride (0.5% NaF), all the 8-15-year-old individuals showed statistically significant improvement in their oral health.
Just this year (2018), the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care looked at multiple randomized controlled trials—the best method available for determining cause—involving almost 10,000 children in total. They found without a doubt that children had fewer cavities if fluoride varnish was applied regularly and that the application of the varnish stopped the progression of cavities in some children. They also found that fluoride varnish was helpful regardless of whether or not the child had cavities before application of the varnish.
NPR also reported on the use of fluoride varnishes in adult patients at high risk for developing dental caries. Dentists using CAMBRA risk assessments may recommend using fluoride varnish in patients of any age at a moderate or high risk for dental caries. Ironically, dentists sometimes find dental insurance to be a barrier to varnish application. Although fluoride varnish has been well studied in children and is usually covered for younger patients, insurance companies frequently do not cover the same varnish in adult patients. Still, compared to the cost of a filling, varnish may prove to be a long-term bargain for a high risk patient, and the American Dental Association recognizes the potential value of fluoride varnish in elevated risk patients.
If you are looking to add strength to your teeth and prevent cavity development, it’s worth speaking to your dentist at your next visit about professionally applied fluoride varnish and if you are a good candidate for that therapy.