Important Information for Parents and Caregivers

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Applying fluoride varnish to your children’s teeth is important for preventing cavities. With proper care of the teeth it is possible for children to have no cavities at all!

Fluoride varnish can be applied at either a dental office or a clinic. It should be applied 4 times per year. Many parents will bring their children to the dentist 2 times a year, and have the other two applications done at the medical clinic.

The Minnesota Oral Health Coalition has created multilingual videos demonstrating what happens in a fluoride varnish treatment. The video is only 2-minutes long and is available in several languages.

Watch the videos

You may have questions about fluoride varnish applications for your children. Please send an email to if you do not see your question answered here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Smiling Baby with two teeth
What is fluoride varnish?

Fluoride varnish is a topical fluoride treatment. It is placed on all surfaces of teeth, including the front, back, chewing surfaces, and between the teeth.  It is brushed on the teeth with a small brush, and is as simple as putting nail polish on your fingernails.  It takes less than 5 minutes to apply to the teeth.

Is fluoride varnish safe?

Fluoride varnish is very safe. It is considered noninvasive procedure. That means it is not put into the body.  Fluoride varnish dries immediately and is not absorbed into the body. 

How does fluoride varnish prevent cavities?

Fluoride strengthens the healthy enamel or surface of teeth.  It also remineralizes sick enamel.  It can strengthen teeth that have already become weakened and will reverse early damage that may have started on the teeth.

How often should my child have a fluoride varnish treatment?

Your child can have fluoride varnish applied at least four times per year. Every three months is ideal. An extra application is not harmful to your child. However, not enough fluoride can lead to cavities and tooth decay.

At what age should my child start to have fluoride varnish treatments?

Your child should have fluoride varnish as soon as the first tooth erupts and every three months after that. This recommendation is from the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Medicine (AAFP).

What is the difference between fluoride varnish and sealants?

Fluoride varnish is applied to all surfaces of both baby and permanent teeth. Fluoride varnish is applied up to four times per year on the teeth by either a medical or dental clinic.

Sealants are placed only on chewing surfaces of permanent teeth. They are applied only by a dental clinic and are only applied every few years.

Both fluoride varnish and sealants are very effective in preventing cavities!

Where should I go to get fluoride varnish treatments for my child’s teeth?

You can get fluoride varnish applied at a dentist’s office, a medical clinic, or at a public health agency. If you see a dentist regularly, every six months for prevention services, your dentist will apply fluoride varnish at each visit. Since fluoride varnish treatments should be applied four times per year, your medical clinic would be a great place to go in between dental visits.

How do I care for my child’s teeth after a fluoride varnish treatment?

After fluoride varnish is applied, your child’s teeth will have a yellowish color for a couple days. Do not try to brush off the fluoride varnish. The discoloration will disappear with regular toothbrushing and eating. Once the color is gone, the varnish is no longer on the teeth. 

Your child can eat immediately after a fluoride varnish treatment. Give your child soft foods for the first 24 hours. 

Skip brushing the teeth the evening of the fluoride varnish treatment and begin brushing again the next morning.

Why do medical clinics apply fluoride varnish?

Your child’s doctor has been trained to look at your child’s teeth, teach you about how to take care of your child’s teeth, and to apply fluoride varnish.  This can help you prevent cavities in your child’s mouth, even if your child doesn’t have a dental home.

What is my medical clinic doesn’t apply fluoride varnish?

As your child’s parent or caregiver, you have the right to ask for fluoride varnish for your child.  Don’t be bashful, ask for fluoride varnish.  Tell the doctor you want your child to have healthy teeth.

Since I bring my child to the dentist, does my child need fluoride varnish treatments from the medical clinic?

Your child’s dentist will apply fluoride varnish two times per year. Since it is recommended to have fluoride varnish applied four times per year, ask your child’s clinic to apply varnish the other two times.

How will I know when fluoride varnish has been applied to my child’s teeth

Always ask what happened at the dental or medical visit if you were not present at the time.  You will also notice a yellowing color of your child’s teeth that will disappear after a couple days. The discoloration you see is the varnish. You can keep a record of fluoride varnish treatments with your immunization records.

What is my child accidentally swallows some fluoride varnish?

The fluoride varnish dries immediately when it is applied, so it is unlikely that any fluoride is swallowed.  Even if a small amount was swallowed during the procedure, the mixture contains a very small amount of fluoride that it is not harmful to your child.

Should adults have fluoride varnish treatments?

Fluoride varnish also strengthens the teeth of adults and is often applied at dental visits.