From Connecticut to Arkansas, dental health care rankings show significant regional differences

Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Americans’ dental health is determined in part by where they live. Connecticut residents enjoy the best dental health in the country, while Arkansas ranks last.

“In the United States, the number of dental professionals per capita varies significantly by region, which not only makes dental services more accessible and affordable in some areas, but also affects overall dental health,” according to a new report from Dentaly, a source for Extensive information about oral and dental health. The presence of fluoridated water, crucial for preventing tooth decay, also varies widely; some states have near-universal coverage, while others do not.

“Additionally, coverage for dental care under Medicaid varies greatly, with some states offering no coverage, others covering only emergencies, and some offering comprehensive benefits.”

Dental habits also vary by region. “In certain states, a significant portion of the population avoids dental visits out of fear,” the report said. “Meanwhile, in other states, a greater number of people are recognizing and pursuing preventative dental care, reducing common dental health problems.”

The overall rankings reflect these regional differences. Joining Connecticut in the top three are the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, and West Virginia and Louisiana are just above Arkansas at the bottom. Illinois fell to fifth place and Minnesota and Wisconsin left the top five, reflecting the decline in dental health in these states since 2018.

Using data from the US Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers took a deeper look at several factors that contribute to oral health.

  • Number of dentists per 100.00 inhabitants. The District of Columbia has the most with 104, which is 2.5 times more than Alabama, with just 41. Best: District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Alaska. Worst: Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.
  • Frequency of dental consultations per person. Best: Connecticut, Massachusetts and Hawaii; Worst: Texas, West Virginia and Arkansas.
  • Current cigarette smoking among adults. Best: Utah, California and Massachusetts. Worst: Louisiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.
  • Sugar consumption. Best: Oregon, Washington and Montana. Worst: Oklahoma, Mississippi and Kentucky.

Related: Insurance coverage affects the frequency of dental visits by older adults

  • Alcohol use. Best: Utah, Maryland and Idaho. Worst: Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire.
  • Water fluoridation. One hundred percent of District of Columbia residents receive fluoridated water, which is nearly twelve times that of Hawaii, the lowest-ranked state at 8.5%. Best: District of Columbia, Kentucky and Minnesota. Worst: Oregon, New Jersey and Hawaii.
  • Oral health problems: Best: Connecticut, District of Columbia and Massachusetts. Worst: Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas.
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