Consumer site taps data to estimate which states have healthiest teeth and gums

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Jamie Henderson via Flickr

A state’s oral health status represents an interesting indicator of the overall health and economic well-being of its people. On a personal and population level, oral health is not achieved in a vacuum.

Many factors play a role in ensuring the good oral health, from the availability and cost of professional dental services to access to nutritious food and optimally fluoridated water. Shortages of dental providers, high rates of smoking and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can take a toll. So, can the lack public or private dental benefits, water fluoridation and school sealant programs.

The stakes are high for individuals and for the states where they live. Healthy teeth play a crucial role in nutrition, communicating and job readiness. Oral pain inhibits educational achievement and worker productivity and drives up emergency room costs.

Jill Gonzalez

Assessing and ranking the oral health of states represents a formidable task. But for the second year in a row, a consumer finance website has taken on the challenge. In this new “How I Did It” Q&A, WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez offers insights into the metrics used and the data crunched to create WalletHub’s 2018 States with the Best & Worst Dental Health report.

Gonzalez also shares some wisdom on how reporters might use the report card to take a new look at oral health in their state.

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