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Close to Home: County on right track in addressing dental problems

  • Families line up in southwest Santa Rosa for the St. Joseph Dental Clinic's bimonthly patient day, dedicated to children 5 to 16 who lack routine oral health care. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

Dental health has a huge impact on overall health. Untreated tooth and gum disease make major health problems such as heart attacks and strokes more likely and increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth in pregnant women.

Children with painful tooth decay are much more likely to miss school and struggle academically. Most Sonoma County children have had dental decay, and nearly two out of 10 cases go untreated. It is the most common chronic health problem in our children today. All of this suffering is occurring even though dental disease is almost 100 percent preventable.

It is critical that parents learn the basic steps for their family to have healthy teeth:

Brush teeth twice a day — drink water only after brushing at night. Brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste after age 2 to 3. Floss daily between teeth that touch. Ask your child's doctor or dentist for a daily fluoride supplement if your water is not fluoridated.

Eat a healthy diet including limited sugar.

See a dental health professional at least yearly starting at a the age of one. Preventive treatments and early therapy for tooth decay save money and stop more serious problems. Call 211 for information to find dental care you can afford.

The Sonoma County Department of Health Services recently launched the “Healthy Teeth for Healthy Life” campaign. The campaign aims to improve dental health through education about decay prevention and increased access to dental care services.

Health Services is working closely with schools and child care providers to disseminate dental health information and also is reaching out to residents at family-oriented and wellness events, at community health centers and at county health offices. Please look for this information, learn and share with those you know.

Over the last several years, Health Services and Sonoma County First 5 have assisted the expansion of several dental clinics at our community health centers and the outfitting of a new mobile dental clinic. More young children are getting dental exams and preventive treatments by dental hygienists though expanded Dental Days at WIC sites around the county and a school dental sealant program has begun.

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