Alabama ranks 49th in overall dental health and 51st in dental habits and care, according to a new study released this week.
The study by WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key indicators of dental wellness. It ranked the states and D.C. in two categories — dental health and care, and oral health — then combined the performance in these two categories to arrive at its overall rankings.
The overall ranking put Alabama 49th overall, with only Arkansas and Mississippi performing worse.
It ranks Alabama 51st on dental health and care, which is the bottom of the barrel.
The state landed 44th on oral health, with California, Alaska, Texas, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia trailing.
Dentist Clay Reese, of Davis & Reese Dental Associates in Athens, said the primary causes of tooth decay in Alabama are poor dietary habits — such as diets high in sugars from sodas, sweet tea and sugary foods — and socioeconomic factors that limit access to care.
Reese offered one simple way Alabamians can improve their dental health and that of their children.
"Start seeing the dentist at an early age to establish good oral-hygiene habits," he said.
Putting it off and other reasons
In writing about the study, WalletHub senior writer Richie Bernardo said many people dislike visiting their dentist, especially if they haven’t kept up with their brushing and flossing. The study shows 36 percent of adults have gone more than a year without seeing a dentist. He said some even have dental anxiety and phobia.
Others said they wish they could go but can't afford it. The author said a checkup costs $85 to $100 on average, while a filling can cost $230-$300 and a crown more than $1,100. Anyone who has paid for dental repair knows prevention is cheaper.
Brushing, flossing and getting an annual checkup are not the only actions that determine dental health, the author said. Where you live can be a factor. Certain areas of the nation have a higher density of dental professionals. One of the biggest locational factors is the presence of fluoridated water, which can help prevent tooth decay, the author said. It’s so important, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that by 2020 nearly 80 percent of public water will have this benefit.
How states scored
The study ranked the states and D.C. on these and other factors:
• Highest and lowest percentage of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year — New Hampshire ranked first with the most adolescents visiting dentists in the past year, while Florida ranked 31st, the lowest of those ranked;
• Highest and lowest percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year — Connecticut ranked highest, and Louisiana ranked lowest;
• Lowest dental treatment costs — Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas tied for lowest costs, while Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont tied for 46th.
• Lowest and highest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption — Connecticut had lowest consumption, while Kentucky had the highest;
• Lowest and highest percentage of adult smokers — Utah had lowest, and West Virginia had highest;
• Lowest and highest percentage of adults with poor or fair oral condition — Minnesota, Hawaii and Illinois tied for lowest percentage of people with poor or fair oral condition, and Montana ranked highest;
• Lowest and highest percentage of elderly population with no natural teeth — Hawaii ranked first with the lowest percentage, while Mississippi and West Virginia tied for highest number;
• Lowest and highest percentage of adults who experienced oral pain in the past year — Connecticut, Illinois, D.C., Iowa and North Dakota tied for lowest number, while California had the highest number; and
• Lowest and highest percentage of adults with low lifetime satisfaction due to oral condition — North Dakota ranked first with the lowest number dissatisfied, and Texas ranked last with the highest number dissatisfied.
For the complete study, visit bit.ly/USDentalHealth2018.