There are many variables that can affect one’s dental health. This includes diet, brushing and flossing habits, how someone feels about going to the dentist and perhaps the ability to afford dental work. But did you know that where you live can affect your dental health as well? Just as there are income disparities from coast to coast, there are also dental health disparities, and it’s quite possible that the two are related.
WalletHub, the personal finance website, issued their report, “2017’s States with the Best & Worst Dental Health,” as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month. What they found indicated that a state’s economics, availability of dental services, parents’ dental hygiene and habits such as smoking and soda drinking all played a big role in determining overall dental health in that state.
How Was the Study Done?
WalletHub’s researchers compared all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, looking at 23 key metrics such as life satisfaction due to oral health conditions, percentage of adolescents that went to a dentist in the past year, sugary beverage consumption, dental treatment costs and percentage of elderly population with no natural teeth.
Best and Worst Dental Care by State
The overall ranking considers dental habits and care along with oral health. The top five states for the best dental care were Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota and Connecticut. Pennsylvania is halfway down the list, at a disappointing number 26. However, the state fared far better than Mississippi, Arkansas, Montana, Alabama and West Virginia, which, according to the study, have the nation’s worst oral health and dental habits.
Visits to the Dentist
The results show that it was mostly northeastern states that had the highest percentage of both adolescents and adults visiting the dentist in the past year. The lowest percentage of dentist visits by people in both age groups tended to be in southern states. Dental treatment costs were higher in the northeast and generally lower in southern states, but cost appeared not to be a deciding factor, possibly due to higher overall wages in the northeast. The south also had the fewest dentists per capita, whereas states like Massachusetts, Wyoming and New York had the most.
Diet, Lifestyle Choices and Oral Health
There was a significant difference between states with the lowest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among adolescents and states with the highest. Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire kids had the lowest consumption of sugary beverages, whereas Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Mississippi had the highest.
Adult smokers were most plentiful in West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas, and least common in Utah, California and Connecticut.
Oral Condition, Pain and Dentures – Best and Worst States
Other findings had to do with oral condition, pain and percentage of the elderly population with no natural teeth. States that fared the best in these categories included Minnesota, Hawaii, Connecticut and California, with these locations in the lowest percentages for at least two of these dental health metrics. Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana and West Virginia were at the other end of the scale.
Oral Health and Life Satisfaction
When one experiences oral health concerns, the study shows, it can affect overall life satisfaction. States that had the fewest dentists, lowest percentage of visits among its residents and poor habits such as smoking or consumption of sugary beverages tended to be states where the highest percentage of its citizens had low life satisfaction due to the condition of their mouths.
The correlation between taking care of one’s dental health and overall good health and well-being is not surprising. But this study does suggest that those living in certain parts of the country, perhaps due to local culture, economics and health care availability, need to be especially vigilant.
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