Oral health is critically important to the overall health and well-being of children. That is why the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends pediatricians examine the children’s mouth, gums, and teeth, starting at 6 months of age.

Because most parents do not take babies to the dentist, pediatricians are being asked to apply fluoride to a baby’s teeth as soon as even one tooth appears. So, at your child’s 6, 12 and 18 month visits, fluoride “varnish” will be applied to new teeth.

Parents sometimes wonder why baby teeth need fluoride protection when they eventually fall out. The reason is because even baby teeth can get caries (cavities or tooth decay) that also can damage the adult teeth behind them.

Babies are at risk for caries because:

  • very few parents brush baby’s teeth after each feeding;
  • babies frequently have things in their mouth that aren’t sanitary, like pacifiers or fingers; and
  • carbohydrates are a significant portion of a baby or toddler’s diet, (cereal, fruits, teething biscuits etc.) and carbs place teeth at higher risk of caries.

What will happen at your child’s visit?

His/her doctor or physician assistant can apply fluoride to each tooth with a little brush. That’s it! The process takes less than a minute. This treatment safely delivers fluoride to protectively coat each tooth surface.


  1. Do not brush or floss your child’s teeth for at least 4-6 hours. If possible, wait until the following morning to resume brushing and flossing.
  2. Do not give your child hard foods or anything that requires a lot of chewing.
  3. Avoid hot drinks for the rest of the day.
  4. It’s OK if your child tells you they “feel” or taste the fluoride varnish. This is normal and will go away once they resume brushing.

AHCCCS and most insurance plans cover fluoride treatments. Just know that we will bill this treatment to your insurance company. If you are concerned about whether or not your individual plan will cover the cost, please call them and ask.

by Fred Shulski, MD