Fluoride is a natural mineral that has been proven to strengthen teeth and prevent the incidence of tooth decay. The American Dental Association recommends fluoride treatment for children as soon as teeth emerge. This simple preventive measure of applying a fluoride varnish to a child's first teeth can strengthen teeth at risk for decay and create a tooth surface that is more resistant to decay.
Applying a fluoride varnish protects a child's primary (first) teeth from decay. Fluoride is applied twice a year from ages one to six or seven when the child gets their permanent teeth. Fluoride varnish works by repairing gaps in the tooth enamel, protecting teeth from plaque forming bacteria that likes to colonize in small pits and gaps.
Fluoride is easily applied to teeth. It dries almost immediately upon contact with clean dry teeth and will not be removed by saliva. The procedure is quick, painless, and often included in dental insurance coverage, but you will want to check with your provider to be certain.
Once children have their permanent teeth, dental sealants may be applied for the protection of the back teeth or molars. Sealants are a thin plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth (usually the back teeth) to prevent tooth decay. Most children get their first molars between the ages of five and seven and their second (permanent) molars around the ages of 11 – 14 which is an appropriate time to apply sealants.
Using both fluoride varnishes on your child's primary teeth and sealants on the chewing surfaces of your child's permanent teeth are effective ways to help prevent or slow down tooth decay.