Fluoride varnish does for your teeth what a porcelain varnish does for delicate antiques. Dental fluoride varnish preserves and protects your teeth so that they stay strong and healthy for your entire life. By working with a highly-qualified dentist, like one of the Scottsdale dentists at AZ Dentist, this treatment approach can help you maintain your best smile.

What is a fluoride varnish?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in the ocean, some bodies of fresh water, and certain foods. For dental uses, fluoride varnish has been shown to protect teeth from cavities and even repair teeth in the early stages of tooth decay.

Fluoride varnish is a concentrated form of fluoride that your dentist applies to your enamel, dentin, and cementum of the tooth. Also referred to as a fluoride treatment, fluoride varnish helps replace the fluoride your teeth lose daily from demineralization. This demineralization is a natural part of tooth wear. It can accelerate if you consume a diet high in sugar, fat, and acidic foods regularly.

Dental fluoride varnish is sticky and adheres to the teeth for several hours after application. The fluoride varnish soaks into the teeth and helps prevent cavities. It can also repair teeth damaged by tooth decay.

What’s involved with a fluoride varnish application?

Fluoride varnish application might look different, depending on who is getting the treatment. For both adults and children, the first step in a fluoride varnish treatment is a thorough teeth cleaning and flossing. After that, the teeth are dried in preparation for the fluoride varnish.

Your dentist will apply a highly concentrated fluoride varnish (usually a 5% solution) directly to your teeth with a cotton swab or small brush. Fluoride dries on the teeth and naturally wears off over the course of the day.

Fluoride varnish dries rapidly and is used in small quantities. For children, this is a plus because there is less possibility of swallowing fluoride. The treatment is available in different flavors, too, which can also be a plus for kids with sensitive taste buds.

For children receiving fluoride treatments, fluoride can also be applied using trays. The fluoride treatment is placed in trays (like a deeper mouth guard). A dentist will insert the trays into the mouth for a brief period and then remove them.

Many young patients, however, find the trays uncomfortable and opt for application with a cotton swab or brush.

When are fluoride treatments necessary?

Fluoride treatments offer many advantages to patients for a variety of conditions. Research from the American Dental Association has shown that fluoride prevents cavities in both children and adults while repairing any existing damage due to tooth decay.

Fluoride varnish treatment can also help with the following conditions:

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Dry mouth
  • Dental work and orthodontia
  • Gum disease

Let’s look at those in more detail.


For patients with sensitive teeth, fluoride varnish can help create a strong layer of calcium between the painful stimulus (e.g., hot coffee and cold ice cream) and the affected nerves.

Fluoride varnish for adults is often used after scaling and root planing in patients who experience sensitivity. Patients with sensitivity due to receding gums (approximately 33% of people in the U.S.) may als