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Fluoride Varnishes for Dental Health: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-effectiveness and Guidelines

Last updated: October 26, 2016
Project Number: RC0815-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report


  1. What is the clinical effectiveness of fluoride varnishes for dental health?
  2. What is the clinical effectiveness of fluoride varnishes compared to other topical fluorides administered professionally?
  3. What is the cost-effectiveness of fluoride varnishes for dental health?
  4. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding the use of fluoride varnish treatment?

Key Message

Five systematic reviews and meta-analyses, nine randomized controlled trials, one economic evaluation and four evidence-based guidelines were identified regarding the use of fluoride varnishes for dental health. The results of the included studies generally support the use of professionally applied topical fluoride varnish for the prevention and reversal of dental caries, remineralization of WSL and dental caries lesions, and decrease of dentin sensitivity. The effectiveness of fluoride varnish was not established for the remineralization of MIH in young children or for the prevention of new dental caries in adults with dry mouth. In the identified guidelines, fluoride varnish is recommended for routine use in children, particularly those at increased risk of developing dental caries. Adults with root caries were recommended to receive fluoride varnish treatment. No cost information that was directly applicable to the Canadian context was identified, but in a cost-effectiveness study of Native Alaskan children, fluoride varnish was considered to be a cost-effective treatment option.