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Frequently Asked Questions

Healthy Teeth for Healthy Life - Sonoma County


Why is dental health so important?

Proper care of your teeth has an impact on your overall health. Untreated tooth decay can contribute to many health problems later in life, such as diabetes, and heart infections. Poor dental health can cause unnecessary pain and suffering, lead to missed school and work, and delaying dental care can have significant financial cost to you and your family.

How can I best protect my own dental health?

Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste - and remember to floss too! Avoid soda and other sugary drinks and limit unhealthy snacks like candy. Remember that regular dental visits for the whole family help protect you and your children from cavities - and save you money before more serious, expensive problems develop. Drink fluoridated tap water if it is available where you live or work (for example in Healdsburg, Two Rock Coast Guard station, and most Bay Area counties). 

How can I best protect my child's teeth?

Early prevention of tooth decay is the key for healthy teeth for healthy life. Brush or supervise your child's teeth brushing at least twice a day. Have them use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Have them drink low fat milk or fluoridated tap water, if available, or if not, talk to your doctor or dentist about fluoride for your child. Application of fluoride varnishes in young children and sealants in elementary school will also help protect your children's teeth against cavities. Never let a baby go to sleep with a bottle of anything but water. 

When do I need to start brushing my baby's teeth?

Caring for your baby's teeth early in life promotes a lifetime of health smiles. Take your baby to the dentist as soon as the first tooth appears and no later than the age of one. A dentist can help you with proper brushing techniques for your wiggly baby / toddler. And avoid giving your child sugary drinks, including juice.

Why do so many children have tooth decay and cavities early?

Allowing a baby to sleep with a bottle that has anything but water is a leading cause of early tooth decay in babies and toddlers. But once a cavity forms, it cannot be brushed away. A dentist should be seen regularly to ensure that teeth are getting brushed properly, and that no untreated dental decay exists. 

Why is this such a critical issue in Sonoma County?

For adults and children, untreated dental decay or “cavities” can cause pain, difficulty eating, and can contribute to serious health problems later in life, such as diabetes and heart infections. For children, it affects a child's ability to learn and attend school. In fact, 5 of 10 Sonoma County children suffer from dental decay. And, on a daily basis, as many as a dozen Sonoma County children are undergoing risky, costly surgeries under anesthesia to repair severely damaged teeth.

What is the County doing to address this issue?

The County is focused on prevention, education and access. Preventative methods include expanding access to dental sealant and fluoride varnish programs for children and exploring whether fluoridating our tap water in Sonoma County is the right step. Every major City in the country, including San Francisco and Los Angles have fluoridated water and dentists and doctors agree that there is no better way to help prevent tooth decay. To help educate and inform, the County is working with schools and community groups to help spread the word that - Life is Better with Teeth! The County is helping make sure residents have the facts and knowledge they need to help improve their dental care practices and prevent tooth decay. Finally, the County Department of Health Services and First 5 are working with community partners to help expand access to affordable dental care and prevention at clinics, hospitals, the WIC program, schools, Pediatric Dental Initiative and through mobile vans, and by establishing the Sonoma County Dental Discount Program, which saves you money at the dentist. 

What can I do to help?

You know life is better with teeth - so help us by spreading the word! Share this website and join our Facebook page. The Department of Health Services also has a Healthy Teeth for Healthy Life presentation that we are sharing with critical health, dental, childcare, and parent groups. Know of a group, school, or other organization/group of individuals that would benefit by receiving a short presentation on dental health? Let us know! Email us at

Where can I find out more information?

A healthy life starts with healthy teeth! For information about the best ways to maintain good oral health, visit the resources listed below:

Oral health: A window to your overall health
Source: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Oral Health: The Mouth-Body Connection
Source: WebMD.

Mouth Healthy
Source: American Dental Association.

Daily Tips for Good Oral Hygiene
Source: The Academy of General Dentistry.

Healthy Teeth for Life: 10 Tips for Families
Source: WebMD.

How to Keep Your Teeth, Gums Healthy
Source: AARP.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Oral Health

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center