Some states get an A+ when it comes to healthy teeth. Others have some work to do.
Dental health often starts early on, and the journey continues throughout a person’s lifetime. Every year people spend a significant amount of time and money caring for their smile, and for good reason. Poor dental hygiene can lead to a host of issues, including respiratory, heart, cognitive, and kidney problems as well as chronic headaches, diabetes, and even cancer! Simply brushing twice daily, flossing, using fluoride and visiting the dentist every six months might make all the difference in the world.
Given the importance of keeping one’s smile healthy, it’s interesting to consider the differences between the states that have the best dental hygiene rates and those that are lagging behind. According to a recent report by Express Dentist, a leading dental health website, these rates vary greatly across the United States, as one might expect. The report, which analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ranked each state based on factors such as the prevalence of tooth decay, the percentage of adults who have lost all of their teeth, and the number of dentists per 100,000 residents. How did each state fare?
The top-ranked state for dental health was Connecticut, which had the lowest rate of tooth decay among children and the highest percentage of adults who had visited a dentist in the past year. Other states in the top five included Hawaii, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and New Jersey. On the other hand, states with the lowest rankings included Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Ohio. These lower-ranked states had the highest rates of tooth decay among children and the lowest percentages of adults who had visited a dentist in the past year. Additionally, these states had some of the lowest numbers of dentists per 100,000 residents. This is particularly telling as it means to suggest that greater access to dentists equates to better dental hygiene.
The report also found that there is a clear link between poverty and poor dental health. With the costs for insurance and healthcare being so high, this isn’t surprising. Most dentist offices are also open during regular work hours (9-5), which makes it harder for people who work multiple or afterhours jobs to find time to schedule their next visit. States with high poverty rates, such as Maine and Kentucky, also had some of the worst dental health outcomes. This highlights the importance of addressing poverty and increasing access to care, whether that means creating more jobs, lowering costs, or introducing other incentives to get people in the door.
The study recorded people’s top reasons for not visiting the dentist, too, which shouldn’t be overlooked. The number one reason? Survey participants weren’t ashamed to say that they were “afraid of the dentist.” Whether it be a fear of drilling, extractions, or not knowing what their practitioner might find that’ll make a dent in the pocketbook, dental anxiety is common, and it’s a primary cause of poor teeth hygiene. To ease this anxiety, many dentists offer medication, nitrous oxide (better known as “laughing gas”) and even stress balls that their patients can squeeze during their visit. Local anesthesia is also used for small procedures.
The Express Dentist report shows that the state of dental health varies greatly across the U.S., with some states having significantly better outcomes than others. There are different factors in each state that might play a role in their dental health status. However, lack of access is a significant deterrent, and this issue must be addressed.