Fluoride varnish is applied to patients’ teeth who have been deemed to be at moderate to high risk for decay. Not every patient requires fluoride. Patients who do not have a history of decay or who are at low risk for decay do not benefit from fluoride. However, for patients who are at moderate to high risk for decay, fluoride is extremely beneficial. Patients who have fluoride professionally applied twice a year show a 74% reduction in tooth decay.
What makes me at high risk for tooth decay? Every patient receives a risk assessment for decay during each exam appointment. Patients are classified at low, moderate and high risk for decay. Your risk classification is elevated based on a number of criteria. Patients with current decay, a history of decay, heavily restored dentition, poor oral hygiene, numerous starts of cavities or decalcifications or xerostomia (dry mouth) all have elevated risk of decay. Another risk factor for decay is age. Most children and adolescents are at high risk of decay based on their inability to adequately clean their teeth.
Your risk classification will dictate how you are treated in the office. For example, someone who is at low risk for decay may receive x-rays only once every other year, whereas someone who is at moderate to high risk for decay would receive annual x-rays. Furthermore, patients who are at low risk for decay will not be offered or recommended a fluoride varnish, while high risk patients will be recommended fluoride varnish twice annually. For high-risk patients we may even go further and provide a prescription fluoride to be used daily.