What is Fluoride Varnish?

Posted on: February 16, 2009


Bright Smiles from Birth is an ICAAP educational program that provides guidelines and support to Pediatricians and Family Physicians, Dentists, and families to make oral health a component of well child visits.

Fluoride varnish is protective coating that can be painted on your child’s teeth by a dentist or doctor.  There are many benefits to fluoride varnish including prevention of tooth decay. 

This worksheet engages some common questions regarding fluoride varnish.

What is fluoride varnish?

Fluoride varnish is a material that is painted on teeth to help your child’s teeth be healthy and stop cavities. Fluoride varnish may also help stop cavities that have already started.  Fluoride varnish helps children’s teeth be healthy.

 What does fluoride varnish do?

Fluoride varnish makes children’s teeth hard. The stronger your child’s teeth, the less chance they will get cavities or tooth decay. 

 Why do we put fluoride varnish on children’s teeth?

Tooth decay and cavities can be prevented. You must start caring for your child’s teeth early to stop cavities and tooth decay. Cavities in baby teeth can cause pain. Children as young as 1 year-old can get cavities. Children keep their baby teeth until they are 12 or 13 years old. Healthy teeth help child learn to talk and eat healthy foods. They also save space for their adult teeth. Children do not have to develop cavities in their teeth.  Fluoride varnish, brushing your child’s teeth and a good diet can stop tooth decay and cavities.

 Is fluoride varnish safe?

Yes, fluoride varnish can be used on babies from the time they have their first teeth. Only a very small amount of fluoride varnish is used. Dentists and doctors all over the world use fluoride varnish to stop tooth decay in children.

 How is varnish put on the teeth?

The varnish is painted on the teeth like painting on nail polish. It is quick and easy to apply and tastes good. Your child may cry just because babies and children don’t like having things put in their mouths but it does not hurt your child.

 What should I do after fluoride varnish is painted on my child’s teeth?

Do not let your child eat hot foods or drinks for 4 to 6 hours after the varnish is applied. Do not give them hard foods, like chips, since they will chip off the varnish. Do not give your child hot foods or beverages since they will melt the varnish. Your child may eat warm and soft foods immediately. Brush your child’s teeth the next morning.  Your child’s teeth may be yellow after the fluoride varnish is painted on, but the yellow color will come off when you brush your child’s teeth.

 How often should the varnish be applied?

The fluoride varnish will work best if it is painted on the teeth 3 or 4 times a year. Ask your doctor or dentist when you should bring your child back for fluoride varnish.

Download this fact sheet in English or Spanish in (pdf).


For more information about fluoride varnish or Bright Smiles from Birth contact:

Jennie Pinkwater
Project Director
1400 W. Hubbard
Chicago, IL 60642
Phone: 312/733-1026, ext 213
Fax: 312/733-1791