A new study by researchers at the UCSF School of Dentistry says that fluoride varnish plays a key role in preventing childhood tooth decay. The use of varnish along with parental counseling will go a long way towards reducing the incidence of tooth decay in childhood, the study says.
The researchers examined 376 children, primarily of Chinese and Hispanic backgrounds and divided them randomly into three groups. One group received fluoride varnish twice a year, the second once a year and the third none at all. It was found that children who did not receive any fluoride varnish had double the risk of developing tooth decay as children who did get fluoride varnish. "First, the results support the use of fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay in very young children. Second, the results support parents bringing children for their first dental visit at age one when they are getting their first teeth," said lead researcher Jane Weintraub, DDS, MPH, Lee Hysan Professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry. "Fluoride varnish is relatively inexpensive, easy to brush onto a child's teeth, and can be part of a positive first dental visit to help prevent tooth decay. In contrast, when very young children get cavities, it is difficult for them to sit still for dental treatment. Often, young children needing many fillings receive care in the operating room, at great expense to their family and with the additional risks posed by general anesthesia. We now have an easy, low-cost way to keep teeth healthy." Fluoride is known to prevent tooth decay in permanent teeth, but this is the first time that a positive association with milk teeth has been made. The study made it a point to examine low-income families since these children are most prone to decay, "Statewide studies have shown that children from low-income Hispanic and Asian populations in California are at high risk for tooth decay," Weintraub commented.
The study was supported by the UCSF Comprehensive Oral Health Research Center of Discovery, UCSF Center to Address Disparities in Children's Oral Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, and NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.
Contact: Janet Basu
University of California - San Francisco