Updated: 1/31/2020

You may be brushing your teeth every day and visiting the dentist regularly, but are the people around you doing the same? According to a 2012 Bloomberg Study, certain states have the worst oral health compared to others. Where does your state stand?

Overview of the Study

The Bloomberg study took into consideration three different criteria: (1) the percentage of the population living in a Health Provider Shortage Area (HPSA), (2) the percentage of the population 18+ years old who had seen a dentist in the last year, and (3) the percentage of the population 65+ years old who have no remaining natural teeth. The results of these criteria for each state were combined to create an overall dental health score on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being the worst.

Results of the Study

The following statistics are the results of the study about states and oral care:

  • Mississippi had the highest percentage of people living in an HPSA, coming in at 88.4%
  • Nebraska had the lowest percentage living in an HPSA – only .8%
  • 57.2% of Oklahomans had visited a dentist in the last year, which was the lowest percentage for this category
  • Most visits to the dentist goes to Massachusetts, with 81.7% of the population having seen a dentist in the past year
  • 36% of seniors in West Virginia have no natural teeth – a higher percentage than any other state
  • Only 7.4% of seniors in Hawaii are missing their natural teeth, the lowest percentage for this category

Overall, Mississippi ranked as the state with the worst dental health with an overall dental health score of 88.4. Mississippi ranked in the top 5 worst states for each of the three criteria considered. Connecticut, on the other hand, had the lowest dental health score of 9.3. Though Connecticut did not score the best for any of the individual categories, it was right behind Massachusetts for most dental visits (81.6%) and Hawaii for seniors missing natural teeth (9.2%).

The top five states with the worst dental health scores, starting with the worst, are:

  1. Mississippi (88.4)
  2. Louisiana (74.6)
  3. West Virginia (70.2)
  4. Tennessee (67.0)
  5. Alabama (62.4)

States with the Worst Oral Health

The top five states with the best dental health scores, starting with the best, are:

  1. Connecticut (9.3)
  2. Minnesota (13.9)
  3. New Jersey (15.8)
  4. Massachusetts (17.6)
  5. Maryland (20.0)

States with the Best Oral Health

Living in a Dental HPSA

An area is considered a dental HPSA if there is less than one dentist for every 5,000 people. There are currently 4,800 dental HPSAs in the United States. To determine whether or not you live in a designated HPSA, use this tool.

If you found that you do live in a dental HPSA, you may have trouble finding a dentist near you. In that case, here are a few things you can do to receive the care you need:

  • Eat properly
    • Try to stay away from sugar
    • Brush your teeth after eating particularly sticky or acidic foods
    • Skip the soda and drink water, milk or tea instead
    • Visit a dentist in a non-HPSA.
  • Try dental tourism
    • Schedule an appointment while on vacation or visiting friends and family.
  • Maintain proper dental care
    • Brush your teeth twice a day
    • Floss once a day
    • While bi-annual dental visits may be an inconvenience for you, it’s important to see a dentist immediately if there’s an emergency. If you don’t, the problem could only get worse and end up costing a lot more.

Fortunately, the federal government is actively working to reduce the number of HPSAs in the United States. Being designated as an HPSA qualifies that area for various federal assistance programs, including the assignment of dentists to those areas and financial incentives for new dentists to establish a practice there.

Louisiana: A Top State With The Worst Oral Health

Photo by dental ben / CC BY-ND

In the meantime, you are in control of your own oral health, and the best thing you can do is take care of your teeth to avoid more serious problems later.

Where does your state rank for oral health?