A fascinating new study from WalletHub has compared all 50 states using over 25 different dental wellness indicators to determine which states have the best and worst dental health.
Although most people probably don't think about dental health in relation to geography, there are some factors that connect them, including the number of dental professionals in each area, as some locations have many more than others, and whether the public water system is fluoridated to help prevent tooth decay.
Let’s start with the bad news. Who has the worst dental health in the United States?
Coming in at No. 51 is Mississippi (the District of Columbia is included on its own, making 51 total rankings). Although the state's "Dental Habits and Care" rank was 47 and its "Oral Health" rank was 49, its combined scores left it at the bottom of the pack in the "Overall" ranking. Although the state was found to have some of the lowest-cost dental treatments in the nation, it scored 50 out of 51 in the number of adults who visited a dentist in the past year. Mississippi also had the highest percentage of adult smokers in the United States.
This is a prime example of why even those with impeccable dental hygiene routines still need to see their dentist twice a year, said Dr. Amy Norman, a leading dentist in Everett, Washington.
"Some plaque just can’t be cleaned off teeth with a regular toothbrush and toothpaste," she said. "It’s also hard to notice subtle changes in the mouth yourself. Dentists are trained to spot small problems before they become big problems affecting more than just one tooth and costing more money and pain to fix."
Norman’s state, Washington, ranked right in the middle at No. 24 and didn’t make any of the top five or bottom five lists.
"I’d love to see us rank higher in the future, but the fact that people are taking their dental health seriously enough to keep us in the middle does make me happy," she said.
So, which state has the best dental health in the nation?
Drumroll, please. Coming in at No. 1 on the list is the North Star State and Land of 1,000 Lakes, Minnesota. It ranked first in "Dental Habits and Care" and third in "Oral Health," earning it the No. 1 rank in the "Overall" category. Minnesota also had the fourth highest percentage of adults who had visited the dentist in the last year and the lowest percentage of adults with poor or fair oral health.
Other states that ranked high included Wisconsin, Connecticut, Illinois and North Dakota, while Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia and Montana all ranked toward the bottom of the list.