The rise of fluoride varnish dental treatments

New figures released by the NHS Information Centre have revealed just how popular fluoride varnish treatment has become.

Many dentists consider that fluoride varnish treatment offers a longer form of protection against tooth decay than regular tooth-brushing. It is also a less controversial method of improving oral health than adding fluoride to water supplies.

The treatment involves a dentist or hygienist using a brush to coat a patient’s teeth with gel which then sets and requires repainting after six months.

From June 2010 to June 2011 over 850,000 children in England received fluoride varnish treatment on the NHS – a 55 per cent rise on the 2009/2010 figures.

During 2010/2011, 335,000 adults received fluoride varnish treatment; another significant rise on the previous year’s figures.

Just over eight per cent of all courses of treatment administered to children during this time involved fluoride varnish treatment; the figure was 1.2 per cent for adults.

London dentist Ethicare offers fluoride varnish treatment to children and adults. Dr Glafcos Tombolis, who runs the practice, reveals that children sometimes respond more favourably to the treatment than adults – hence perhaps why the treatment, on a national scale, is more frequently given to younger people.

Dr Tombolis said: “Fluoride varnish treatment shouldn’t just be used as the only way for a patient to prevent tooth decay but as an adjunct to dietary advice and other preventative measures.

He added: “It’s not needed by all patients but can be particularly effective for patients with a history, or vulnerability to, tooth decay. If the right dosage is applied, and if it is clear that the patient really can benefit from it, I can see no disadvantages to this treatment.”

The rise in the treatment’s popularity can be explained by the Department of Health declaring it as safe and effective for all children. Some NHS managers are telling their dentists to apply the varnish to all children attending appointments.

The use of fluoride in protecting against tooth decay has also received the backing of the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF).

Research shows that for the period June 2009 to June 2011, 7.8 million children were seen by an NHS dentist – 26,000 fewer than in 2006.

Dr Carter commented: “Children should be attending the dentist as soon as possible in order for them to develop good oral health habits which they can carry through to adulthood.”

Other key findings for the year 2010/2011 reveal that

  • The most common course of treatment (CoT) was a scale and polish (44 per cent of adults had this)
  • Almost a quarter (27.5 per cent) of adult CoTs included a permanent filling or sealant restoration, a figure which was 22 per cent for children
  • Extraction accounted for 7.6 per cent of adult CoTs
  • Crowns accounted for 2 per cent, veneers 0.1 per cent and bridges 0.3 per cent
  • An examination was involved in 66.5 per cent of CoTs

According to the research, you are also far more likely to see a female dentist than you were five years ago. In 2010/2011 the percentage of female dentists was 43.5 per cent, a significant increase on 2006/07′s 38.8 per cent.


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