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Dental care called a health care crisis

Even though she had 12 cavities, 3-year-old Vanessa Sepulveda never complained about pain.

But on Wednesday, lying in a state-of-the-art dental operating room at PDI Surgery Center in Windsor, general anesthesia was used to help her deal with filling and crowning her caries — the likely result of drinking juice since she was 7 months old.

"We used to put it in her baby bottle with water so it wouldn't be so sweet," said her father, Ignacio Sepulveda of St. Helena. "We now know that she should eat apples and other fruit, instead of drinking them," he said in Spanish.

Sepulveda is part of what local officials are calling a growing North Coast health care crisis that only now is being assessed in Sonoma County. According to a study by the Sonoma County Task Force on Oral Health, yet to be formally released to the public:

-- In 2010, there were only 15 dentists for 109,000 low-income residents in Sonoma County — a fraction of the pool available to those with private insurance.

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