My son is five. Like any good parents we are protective of him. We tend to question advice from health professionals as a matter of course, and make
at least informed decisions that are hopefully the right ones.
Last year we took our boy to the dentist for a regular checkup. After checking his teeth the dentist asked us if she could apply fluoride varnish to
his teeth. We had no idea what it was, but I asked how long would it last. The dentist said 24 hours (this doesn't correspond with Child-Smile claim
"..the benefits of the fluoride will last for several months"). I said to the dentist - well what's the point?. She said, well there is no fluoride
in the water around here. I said, no thanks... leave it. Our boy brushes regularly with toothpaste, and his baby teeth are fine.
So that was that, until last week when we got a letter from our boy's school asking us enroll him in a 4 year Fluoride Varnish Programme where they
want to apply fluoride varnish to his teeth twice a year. All the kids at his school got the form. Well, obviously we wanted to know more about
fluoride varnish before deciding anything. We decided to look up fluoride varnish, and what we found was deeply concerning
We started with Childsmile, which is pretty much the first fluoride varnish link on Google (UK).
Many scientific studies from around the world have shown that fluoride varnish is effective in reducing the decay rate in children when used in
addition to brushing teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste. A Cochrane Systematic Review (external link) of 2008 confirmed the statistically
significant caries-inhibiting effect of fluoride varnish.
Okay, that sounded good. Many scientific studies
. Well lets check out this
. Well this is an odd one. Despite coming to the conclusion that "Fluoride varnishes applied professionally two to four times a year
would substantially reduce tooth decay in children"
, the author admits this conclusion was reached based largely on trials with no treatment
No control group? He goes on: "Given the relatively poor quality of most of the included studies and the wide confidence intervals
around the estimates of effect, there remains a need for further trials."
So here is a further trail that found "We could find no evidence of a caries preventive benefit of 22,600 ppm fluoride varnish applied to the
first permanent molar teeth in the school setting."
This trail was a cluster randomized controlled trial to measure the effectiveness of
fluoride varnish as a public health intervention to prevent caries in the first permanent molars of 7 and 8 year-old children when delivered in the
A cluster-randomized controlled trial: fluoride varnish in school children.
So, hard evidence that fluoride varnish does nothing to prevent tooth decay. So why roll this stuff out at our local school? Give it to people kids?
Why indeed... It could be part of an ongoing £1.3 mil pound trial by Professor Ivor Chestnutt
nowhere on the enrollment form does it mention the word trail
, human guinea pig, or indeed the fact there was already evidence that proves
fluoride varnish does nothing to prevent tooth decay.