Data analysis yields state-by-state dental rankings

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.

health care provider working on teeth

Photo by ktpupp via Flickr.

Overall, across America, about 15% of children and one-third of adults have gone longer than a year without a dental visit, federal data show.

But rates of children and adults getting oral health services, and factors that can represent barriers to access – including provider shortages and the cost of care – vary from state to state.

Statewide rates of tobacco use and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impact oral health and also vary. Weighed together, such variables can be used to provide a state-by-state look at oral health status, according to WalletHub’s new report card: 2020’s States with the Best & Worst Dental Health.

This is the fourth year that the personal finance website has crunched data on a variety of oral health indicators from federal and nonprofit sources to come up with state-by-state dental rankings.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have been scored using more than two dozen metrics, including the share of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year, the percentage of residents who stayed away from care due to cost, and the rate at which adults reported low life satisfaction due to oral conditions.

By WalletHub’s measures, Wisconsin captured the top ranking for overall best dental health (as it did in 2019,) The Badger State is followed this year by Illinois (2), Minnesota (3), the District of Columbia (4) and Connecticut (5).

At the bottom of the 2020 overall dental rankings are Louisiana (47), Montana (48), West Virginia (49), Arkansas (50) and finally Mississippi, ranked 51st.

The 2020 WalletHub report card also breaks out ratings for some specific indicators including tobacco and soda consumption rates, dentists per capita and toothlessness among elders.

The report includes a consumer-friendly “Ask the Experts” feature where dental educators offer self-care tips and weigh in on topics including the value of school sealant programs, community water fluoridation and public and private dental coverage.

How does your state rate?

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