The 10 Worst States for Dental Health and the 10 Best

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Most of us don’t enjoy going to the dentist because, let’s face it, having to awkwardly respond to our dentist’s small talk with our mouths uncomfortably ajar is enough to keep us away longer than recommended. In fact, over a third of Americans haven’t been to the dentist in the past year. To find out which states have the healthiest teeth and gums, experts at WalletHub compared 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key indicators of dental wellness including dental habits and oral health. Read on to find out if your state ranks among the best or the worst in the nation!

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WORST: Texas

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In 2016, the America Dental Association's (ADA) Health Policy Institute released a nationwide report on oral health indicators. A staggering 39 percent of low-income adults in the U.S. reported that life in general was less satisfying due to the condition of their mouths and teeth. One in four adults avoid smiling because of the condition of their mouths, and the same number of people feel embarrassed because of their teeth. For 20 percent of Americans, their mouths and teeth give them anxiety. Texas, in particular, has the highest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition, which is why it's the the 10th worst state for dental health on the list.

Read more: 10 Healthy Habits That Are Destroying Your Teeth

2

WORST: South Carolina

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South Carolina came in ninth on WalletHub’s “worst” list. The Palmetto State may have landed its spot because it has far fewer dentists per 100,000 people than the U.S. average — only 47.9 compared to the national average of 60.5. Fortunately, according to the ADA, 94 percent of South Carolina’s population receives fluoridated water (which can help prevent tooth decay) through public water systems.

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3

WORST: Florida

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Florida tied for the second highest percentage of adults who reported having fair or poor oral condition. It also has the lowest percentage of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year, according to WalletHub’s data, which explains why dental health is especially poor among children in Florida. That may be partly because only 30 percent of dentists there participate in Medicaid for child dental services, while 42 percent participate throughout the U.S, according to the ADA. People who lack dental coverage are more likely to have dentures and develop chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

4

WORST: California

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Although California ranked among the states with the healthiest teeth in America in a few categories, it still managed to find its way onto the “worst” list. According to WalletHub, it has the highest percentage of adults who experienced oral pain in the past year. Seventy percent of third-graders there have had dental cavities, compared to about 20 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds nationwide. While water fluoridation could reduce the amount of decay in children’s teeth by 18 to 40 percent, only 64 percent of California’s population receives fluoridated water — far short of the national average, which is 74.4 percent.

Read more: How to Get Stronger Teeth & Gums

5

WORST: Louisiana

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Louisiana has the lowest percentage of adults who visited the dentist in the past year — just 47 percent of insured adults, compared to 59 percent nationwide. It tied for the second highest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral care and has the second fewest dentists per capita. It also tied for the fourth highest percentage of adults with a poor or fair oral condition.

6

WORST: Montana

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Montana landed the fifth spot on WalletHub’s worst list, largely because it has the highest percentage of adults with fair or poor oral condition. It also has the fourth lowest percentage of adults who receive fluoridated water, according to the ADA — just 32 percent. On the other hand, at 58.9, its number of dentists per 100,000 residents is almost on par with the national average, and a much higher percentage of those dentists participate in Medicaid for child dental services than average: 72 percent, compared to the average of 42 percent.

7

WORST: West Virginia

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West Virginia tied for the highest percentage of its elderly population with no natural teeth. It also tied for the second highest percentage of adults who experienced oral pain in the past year and the second highest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition. West Virginia topped the chart for the highest percentage of adult smokers: 24.8 percent of adults there smoke, compared to about 15 percent nationwide. Smoking can stain your teeth and lead to gum disease, according to the Oral Health Foundation. While most of us are well aware that smoking can cause throat and lung cancer, many people don’t know that it can also lead to mouth cancer, which kills almost 10,000 Americans every year.

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8

WORST: Alabama

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Alabama has the fifth fewest dentists per capita, which might be part of the reason why only 50 percent of adults there have private dental coverage. According to the ADA, there are only 44 dentists per 100,000 people in Alabama, which is far below the national average of 60.5. Having so few dentists could be making it difficult for Alabama residents to find a dental care provider who's accessible. In fact, about 10 percent of all Americans report that they don’t plan to visit the dentist within the next 12 months because they cannot easily get there (i.e. it's too far or they lack adequate transportation).

9

WORST: Arkansas

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Arkansas is runner-up for the worst state for dental health. It has the fifth lowest percentage of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year, the fourth highest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, the third lowest percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year, the third highest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition, the third biggest percentage of adult smokers, the second highest percentage of elderly population with no natural teeth and the second highest percentage of adults with fair to poor oral condition.

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10

WORST: Mississippi

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Mississippi claimed the top spot as America’s worst state for dental health. The Magnolia State tied for the highest percentage of elderly population with no natural teeth. It also has the second lowest percentage of adults who visited the dentist in the past year, the third highest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, the third highest percentage of adults with fair or poor oral condition, the third highest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition and the fifth highest percentage of adult smokers.

Read on to find out which states have the best dental health in the country!

11

BEST: Idaho

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Idaho made it in the Top 10 on WalletHub’s list of states with the best dental health. The state has the fourth highest percentage of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year and the fifth lowest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. It also tied for the fifth lowest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition. This might be because Idaho residents make a serious effort to visit the dentist. According to the ADA, 65 percent of Idaho’s privately insured adults visited the dentist in the past 12 months, along with 71 percent of children who have benefits.

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12

BEST: South Dakota

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Don’t be fooled by the tight-lipped grins engraved on the stone faces of America’s former presidents: South Dakota residents have plenty of reasons to smile. The Mount Rushmore State came in ninth in the nation for dental health and has the second most dentists per capita. Ninety-four percent of South Dakota residents have access to fluoridated water through public water systems, far above the national average of 74.4 percent, according to the ADA. One thing the state can improve on is visiting the dentist: While 59 percent of U.S. adults with health care benefits have been to the dentist in the last 12 months, only 53 percent of South Dakotans have done the same.

13

BEST: Massachusetts

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If you’re someone who needs the dentist’s office to be around the corner in order for you to visit, Massachusetts might be the place for you. It has the most dentists per capita of any state in the nation, which probably explains why it has the highest percentage of adults who visited the dentist in the past year. The Bay State also has the fifth lowest percentage of smokers in the nation, which could be because more than 160 cities and counties there have raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

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14

BEST: Michigan

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Like Massachusetts, Michigan residents have plenty of options when it comes to their dental care provider. WalletHub found that it had the third most dentists per capita in the nation, which might explain why 71 percent of adults there have visited their oral care provider in the past year, surpassing the national average of 59 percent. What's more, 92 percent of dentists there participate in Medicaid for child dental services, compared to just 42 percent nationwide.

15

BEST: District of Columbia

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It turns out dental health is a pretty big priority among our nation’s leaders. According to WalletHub, Washington, D.C., has the second highest percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year and the fifth most dentists per capita. It also tied for the third lowest percentage of adults who experienced oral pain in the past year as well as for the second lowest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition. The nation's capital is setting a fantastic example when it comes to fluoridated water, as 100 percent of people there have access to it through public water systems.

16

BEST: North Dakota

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North Dakota came in fifth among the states with the best oral health. It has the lowest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition, which might be because it has one of the lowest percentages of adults who experienced oral pain in the past year. While North Dakota excels when it comes to the availability of fluoridated water (97 percent of residents have access to it), locals there may want to make more of an effort to visit the dentist: only 49 percent have been in the last year, compared to 59 percent nationwide.

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17

BEST: Illinois

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Illinois earned the third spot on WalletHub’s list for having some of the healthiest chompers in the nation. In fact, it ranked No. 1 when it came to indicators that fall under the “oral health” category, such as the portion of elderly population with no natural teeth and reduced social participation due to oral condition. It tied for the lowest percentage of adults in poor or fair oral condition as well as for the lowest percentage of adults who experienced oral pain in the past year. Residents of the Prairie State might have earned those wins for being sure to visit the dentist – 63 percent of insured adults made the trip last year. Plus, 99 percent of Illinois adults have access to fluoridated water.

18

BEST: Connecticut

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As one of the top three states with the best dental health, Connecticut performed well across many indicators. It topped two lists for having the highest percentage of adults who visited the dentist in the past year and the lowest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Sugar in soda combines with bacteria in your mouth to form acid, according to the Wisconsin Dental Association, which slowly attacks and weakens your tooth enamel.

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19

BEST: Wisconsin

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Falling just shy of first place, Wisconsin has the fourth lowest percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral conditions. While 39 percent of low-income adults across America report feeling less satisfied due to oral problems, only 9 percent of Wisconsin adults report the same, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

20

BEST: Minnesota

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Ding ding ding, we have a winner! Minnesotans have exceptional dental hygiene, earning their state the No. 1 spot on WalletHub’s list of the 10 states with the best oral health. It ranked first when it came to “Dental Health and Care” indicators and sixth among “Oral Health” indicators. It tied for the lowest percentage of adults with poor or fair oral condition and has the fourth highest percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year.

Did your state make either the best of worst list? If not, check out WalletHub’s full list to find out more details about dental health in your state!

What Do YOU Think?

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Do you have easy access to dental care? When was the last time you visited the dentist? If it’s been a while, why do you stay away? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Side Effects of Dental Crowns and Full Mouth Reconstruction

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Overview

Most of us don’t enjoy going to the dentist because, let’s face it, having to awkwardly respond to our dentist’s small talk with our mouths uncomfortably ajar is enough to keep us away longer than recommended. In fact, over a third of Americans haven’t been to the dentist in the past year. To find out which states have the healthiest teeth and gums, experts at WalletHub compared 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key indicators of dental wellness including dental habits and oral health. Read on to find out if your state ranks among the best or the worst in the nation!

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