Untreated dental caries in Chinese pre-school children is common. This prospective controlled clinical trial investigated the effectiveness of topical fluoride applications in arresting dentin caries. Three hundred seventy-five children, aged 3-5 years, with carious upper anterior teeth were divided into five groups. Children in the first and second groups received annual applications of silver diamine fluoride solution (44,800 ppm F). Sodium fluoride varnish (22,600 ppm F) was applied every three months to the lesions of children in the third and fourth groups. For children in the first and third groups, soft carious tissues were removed prior to fluoride application. The fifth group was the control. Three hundred eight children were followed for 30 months. The respective mean numbers of arrested carious tooth surfaces in the five groups were 2.5, 2.8, 1.5, 1.5, and 1.3 (p < 0.001). Silver diamine fluoride was found to be effective in arresting dentin caries in primary anterior teeth in pre-school children.