Tooth decay is a health problem worldwide, affecting the vast majority of adults and children. Levels of tooth decay vary between and within countries, but children in lower socioeconomic groups (measured by income, education and employment) tend to have more tooth decay. Untreated tooth decay can cause progressive destruction of the tops of teeth (crowns), often accompanied by severe pain. Repair and replacement of decayed teeth is costly in terms of time and money and is a major drain on the resources of healthcare systems.
Preventing tooth decay in children and adolescents is regarded as a priority for dental services and is considered more cost-effective than treatment. Use of fluoride, a mineral that prevents tooth decay, is widespread. As well as occurring naturally, fluoride is added to the water supply in some areas, and is used in most toothpastes and in other products that are available to varying degrees worldwide. As an extra preventive measure, fluoride can be applied directly to teeth as mouthrinses, lozenges, varnishes and gels.
Fluoride mouthrinse has frequently been used under supervision in school-based programmes to prevent tooth decay. Supervised (depending on the age of the child) or unsupervised fluoride mouthrinse needs to be used regularly to have an effect. Recommended procedure involves rinsing the mouth one to two minutes per day with a less concentrated solution containing fluoride, or once a week or once every two weeks with a more concentrated solution. Because of the risk of swallowing too much fluoride, fluoride mouthrinses are not recommended for children younger than six years of age.
This review updates the Cochrane review of fluoride mouthrinses for preventing tooth decay in children and adolescents that was first published in 2003. Continue reading