2021’s States with the Best & Worst Dental Health

Alyson R. Briggs

We all know how important regular visits are to dentist for good dental health. When it comes to seeing the dentist 42 percent of Americans don’t see a dentist as often as they would like. On the flip side 85 percent of Americans believe that oral health is very or extremely important to their overall health.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has disrupted the delivery of health care services, including dental care. According to a study published last year almost half of respondents reported delaying going to the dentist or receiving dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With February being National Children’s Dental Health Month and the CDC reporting no COVID-19 transmissions in a clinical dental setting, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s States with the Best & Worst Dental Health.

In order to determine where people have the healthiest teeth and gums in the U.S., they compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 26 key metrics. Their data set ranges from the share of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year to dental treatment costs to dentists per capita.

Best vs. Worst

  • Rhode Island has the lowest share of the population who couldn’t afford more dental visits due to costs, 37.00 percent, which is two times lower than in Georgia, the state with the highest at 74.00 percent.
  • The District of Columbia has the most dentists per 100,000 residents, 68, which is 3.4 times more than in Louisiana, the state with the fewest at 20.
  • The District of Columbia has the highest share of the population receiving fluoridated water, 100.00 percent, which is 11.4 times higher than in Hawaii, the state with the lowest at 8.8 percent.
  • Minnesota, Hawaii and Illinois have the lowest share of adults with poor or fair oral condition, 22.00 percent, which is 1.8 times lower than in Montana, the state with the highest at 40.00 percent.

WalletHub Q & A

Beyond brushing and flossing, what are the most important habits and behaviors to teach children to ensure they have good dental hygiene?

“Parents should supervise children’s brushing and flossing, consider adding a 2-minute timer to help the child learn how long to brush, children too often only brush for 30 seconds,” said Laurel L. Risom, RDH, MPH, University of Bridgeport. “Some of the newer electric brushes for children let you download a favorite song, bush to the music to time the 2 minutes. Floss picks designed for children’s hands make the job of flossing easier. Just like adults the 2 plus 2 applies. Add a fluoride rinse to swish and spit for prevention.”

“Children should also visit their dental hygienist and dentist 2 times a year for, dental cleanings, exams and any needed dental treatment, preventative dental sealants, and application of fluoride varnish to help prevent dental decay.”

“To initiate the decaying process, the bacteria need to cover specific substrates, sugar (carbohydrates), to organic acid,” said Pin-Chuang “Patrick” Lai, DDS, PhD, University of Louisville School of Dentistry. “Therefore, not to constantly provide what bacteria need (for example, having sugary drink and food/snacks every 5-10 min) is critical. The American Dental Association and Mayo Clinic recommend that everyone should wait 30 to 60 minutes after a meal to brush their teeth, to avoid covering your teeth with acidic foods (orange juice, fruits, pastries, vinegar, etc.). Drinking water and using sugar-free chewing gum (for example, xylitol-sweetened gum) can help to remove sugary substrates and neutralize pH value in the mouth, while you are waiting to brush.”

Should school sealant programs be expanded more aggressively, especially in low-income areas, in order to better prevent tooth decay in the school-aged population?

“Yes, evidence from literature and practice continues to demonstrate that sealants are an effective approach to prevent tooth decay on occlusal surfaces of teeth (i.e. biting surfaces that contain pits and fissures).” said Faizan Kabani, PhD, MBA, MHA, RDH, FAADH, Texas A&M College of Dentistry. “Statistics demonstrate that health disparities are found more among lower-income, minority, and immigrant populations. Indeed, school sealant programs should be extended more aggressively, particularly in lower-income areas, to better prevent dental caries in children, but should also be extended to areas that contain diverse populations.”

“Maybe- only if it is combined with nutrition/homecare/education,” said Terry Dean, DMD, Western Kentucky University.

How can dental health care become more affordable?

“Oral health care can become more affordable through changes in public health policy and practice, most notably via allocating more public health funds towards oral health care services,” said Faizan Kabani, PhD, MBA, MHA, RDH, FAADH, Texas A&M College of Dentistry. ” Unfortunately, people have to purchase a separate dental health insurance plan, because oral health care is not typically a covered service under general health insurance. We need to advocate for changes in public health policy to bridge the gap between medical and dental to help ensure a more affordable experience for the public.”

“It is hard to reduce the actual cost of dental treatment due to the overhead costs involved,” said Iquebal Hasan, East Carolina University. “The best approach should be more funds available and encouragement for preventative care. This is an initiative taken by medicine and it is time for dentistry to embrace it.”

To view the full report and your state or the District’s rank, please visit:


Courtesy: WalletHub

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