Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

Fluoride Varnish for Preventing Dental Caries in Children and Adolescents


Am Fam Physician. 2016 May 1;93(9):743-744.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Clinical Question

Are topically applied fluoride varnishes safe and effective in preventing dental caries in children and adolescents?

Evidence-Based Answer

Topically applied fluoride varnishes are safe and effective in preventing dental caries in children and adolescents. There is little information about adverse effects or treatment acceptability. Family physicians should consider incorporating fluoride varnish into childhood preventive care visits. (Strength of Recommendation: A, based on moderate-quality evidence with significant heterogeneity.)

Practice Pointers

A significant health problem among children is dental caries; 20% of children five to 11 years of age have untreated dental caries, and 39% have had dental restoration.1 Only 42% of all persons older than 24 months visited a dentist in 2011.2 Fluoride varnish is inexpensive (approximately $1 per application) and can be applied easily to teeth by physicians to prevent decay.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


Marinho VC, Worthington HV, Walsh T, Clarkson JE. Fluoride varnishes for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;( 7): CD002279.

The practice recommendations in this activity are available at


show all references

1. Dye BA, Li X, Beltrán-Aguilar ED. Selected oral health indicators in the United States, 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief, no. 96. Hyattsville, Md.: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012....

2. Dental visit in the past 12 months, 2007–2011. Accessed August 27, 2015.

3. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Final update summary: Dental caries in children from birth through age 5 years: Screening. May 2014. Accessed August 27, 2015.

4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Children's oral health: state information and resource map. Accessed August 27, 2015.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

This series is coordinated by Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Assistant Medical Editor.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at


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