As a family physician, I have the unique opportunity of caring for my patients from childhood through adulthood. This means I see firsthand the positive impact early oral health habits can have on a person’s life, from a healthier childhood smile, to a healthier adulthood. Over the years we have learned that oral health impact chronic disease management and health risks. Because of this I’ve prioritized integrating oral health services, education, and referrals into my practice; and an important aspect of this for our young patient population is fluoride varnish application.
Fluoride varnish is a concentrated dose of fluoride that I, or a member of my team, paints on the teeth. It works by rebuilding weakened tooth enamel, which makes teeth harder and stronger and prevents further decay. Applying fluoride varnish during a well-child visit takes only a few minutes, but has an outsized impact on a child’s health. This short video shows how simple it is to incorporate varnish application into a well-child visit.
In Southwest Virginia, we’ve made the oral health of our children a priority by incorporating oral health education, fluoride varnish application, and dental home referrals into our well-child visits. This means during visits, along with fluoride varnish application, my team and I take time to educate parents about the importance of healthy baby teeth and creating good oral health habits at an early age.
This July, Virginia’s fluoride varnish application laws changed. Medical assistants are now able to apply fluoride varnish. Medical assistants play an important role in pediatric and family medicine offices across Virginia and allowing them to apply fluoride varnish will improve office flow and consistency which will translate into more young children in Virginia having access to fluoride varnish. With this law change, I am confident even more medical offices will be able to successfully integrate fluoride varnish into their practices.
In my work, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of integrating oral health, and fluoride varnish application, into pediatric visits. There is always more work to do, but I am heartened by our progress. In addition to this legislation change, programs like the one at Virginia Tech Carillion Medical School that implements oral health coursework into its medical training means more of Virginia’s children will have access to integrated health care that sets them up for a lifetime of good health.
I encourage everyone to check out the additional resources below, and to make oral health a part of overall health!
-Tarin Schmidt-Dalton, MD, FAAFP
Southeast Family Medicine Carilion