Fluoride mouthrinses for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jul 29;7(7):CD002284. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002284.pub2.


Background: Fluoride mouthrinses have been used extensively as a caries-preventive intervention in school-based programmes and by individuals at home. This is an update of the Cochrane review of fluoride mouthrinses for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents that was first published in 2003.

Objectives: The primary objective is to determine the effectiveness and safety of fluoride mouthrinses in preventing dental caries in the child and adolescent population.The secondary objective is to examine whether the effect of fluoride rinses is influenced by:• initial level of caries severity;• background exposure to fluoride in water (or salt), toothpastes or reported fluoride sources other than the study option(s); or• fluoride concentration (ppm F) or frequency of use (times per year).

Search methods: We searched the following electronic databases: Cochrane Oral Health's Trials Register (whole database, to 22 April 2016), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (the Cochrane Library, 2016, Issue 3), MEDLINE Ovid (1946 to 22 April 2016), Embase Ovid (1980 to 22 April 2016), CINAHL EBSCO (the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, 1937 to 22 April 2016), LILACS BIREME (Latin American and Caribbean Health Science Information Database, 1982 to 22 April 2016), BBO BIREME (Bibliografia Brasileira de Odontologia; from 1986 to 22 April 2016), Proquest Dissertations and Theses (1861 to 22 April 2016) and Web of Science Conference Proceedings (1990 to 22 April 2016). We undertook a search for ongoing trials on the US National Institutes of Health Trials Register (http://clinicaltrials.gov) and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. We placed no restrictions on language or date of publication when searching electronic databases. We also searched reference lists of articles and contacted selected authors and manufacturers.

Selection criteria: Randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials where blind outcome assessment was stated or indicated, comparing fluoride mouthrinse with placebo or no treatment in children up to 16 years of age. Study duration had to be at least one year. The main outcome was caries increment measured by the change in decayed, missing and filled tooth surfaces in permanent teeth (D(M)FS).

Data collection and analysis: At least two review authors independently performed study selection, data extraction and risk of bias assessment. We contacted study authors for additional information when required. The primary measure of effect was the prevented fraction (PF), that is, the difference in mean caries increments between treatment and control groups expressed as a percentage of the mean increment in the control group. We conducted random-effects meta-analyses where data could be pooled. We examined potential sources of heterogeneity in random-effects metaregression analyses. We collected adverse effects information from the included trials.

Main results: In this review, we included 37 trials involving 15,813 children and adolescents. All trials tested supervised use of fluoride mouthrinse in schools, with two studies also including home use. Almost all children received a fluoride rinse formulated with sodium fluoride (NaF), mostly on either a daily or weekly/fortnightly basis and at two main strengths, 230 or 900 ppm F, respectively. Most studies (28) were at high risk of bias, and nine were at unclear risk of bias.From the 35 trials (15,305 participants) that contributed data on permanent tooth surface for meta-analysis, the D(M)FS pooled PF was 27% (95% confidence interval (CI), 23% to 30%; I(2) = 42%) (moderate quality evidence). We found no significant association between estimates of D(M)FS prevented fractions and baseline caries severity, background exposure to fluorides, rinsing frequency or fluoride concentration in metaregression analyses. A funnel plot of the 35 studies in the D(M)FS PF meta-analysis indicated no relationship between prevented fraction and study precision (no evidence of reporting bias). The pooled estimate of D(M)FT PF was 23% (95% CI, 18% to 29%; I² = 54%), from the 13 trials that contributed data for the permanent teeth meta-analysis (moderate quality evidence).We found limited information concerning possible adverse effects or acceptability of the treatment regimen in the included trials. Three trials incompletely reported data on tooth staining, and one trial incompletely reported information on mucosal irritation/allergic reaction. None of the trials reported on acute adverse symptoms during treatment.

Authors' conclusions: This review found that supervised regular use of fluoride mouthrinse by children and adolescents is associated with a large reduction in caries increment in permanent teeth. We are moderately certain of the size of the effect. Most of the evidence evaluated use of fluoride mouthrinse supervised in a school setting, but the findings may be applicable to children in other settings with supervised or unsupervised rinsing, although the size of the caries-preventive effect is less clear. Any future research on fluoride mouthrinses should focus on head-to-head comparisons between different fluoride rinse features or fluoride rinses against other preventive strategies, and should evaluate adverse effects and acceptability.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Dentition, Permanent
  • Fluorides / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Mouthwashes / administration & dosage*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Mouthwashes
  • Fluorides