Report card may add perspective to reporting on your state’s oral health

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: hamiltons53 via Flickr

Minnesota captured the top overall ranking in a recent state-by-state dental health report card compiled by a popular consumer website.

Meanwhile, Mississippi came in dead last.

WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 different metrics and crunched data garnered from federal and nonprofit sources for its 2018 States with the Best & Worst Dental Health report.

Factors such as rates of community water fluoridation, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and variations in the cost and availability of dental care were weighed to obtain the rankings.

WalletHub also broke out findings in some key areas. For example, New Hampshire rated the best and Florida the worst regarding the number of adolescents who got a dental visit in the past year. Meanwhile, California ranked highest and Connecticut lowest when considering the percentage of adults reporting oral pain.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, WalletHub determined that Massachusetts has the most dentists per capita, with Tennessee having the least.

In its Ask the Experts feature, a dozen oral health educators and professionals offer opinions on the value of measures such as school sealant programs, water fluoridation and home oral hygiene habits. They also provide insights into ways states might address serious and chronic oral health disparities.

“Many states are eliminating adult benefits in Medicaid that reduces access to care for uninsured and underinsured people,” said David P. Cappelli, a professor in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center. “If we can reduce barriers that keep people from accessing dental services, we, as a nation, can improve the oral health of all people.”

Reporters: How does your state rate? How could it do better?

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