Statistics say education, not dental deserts, responsible for poor oral health-care
July 12, 2013
Though many factors can be attributed to the declining oral health of Americansin general,accessability to dental care(both financially and geographically) is often cited as one of the leading causes.
I thought it would be interesting to compare states that had the highest percentage of adults who visited the dentist in one year to states with the most educated citizens, as well as states with the highest populations of citizens living in dental HPSAs. What I discovered wasn’t surprising in part – and yet, the hypothesis that I had, that dental care was a result of accessibility, wasn’t necessarily true.
It turns out, according to these statistics at least, that whether a person makes an appointment with a dentist has more to do with how educated they are and less to do with the number of dental health professional shortage areas.
Of course, how educated someone is also implies how much money they have to spend on dental care and the vacation or sick days they have allotted at work during which they can visit the dentist.
Basically, those of us in the South are least likely to visit the dentist. And if you visit the stereotypes (Deliverance comes to mind), that won’t shock anyone. A Gallup poll from 2011asked residents of all 50 states if they had been to the dentist in the last 12 months. This is from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index:
“Regionally, people living in states in the Northeast and upper Midwest are the most likely to say they visited the dentist in the past 12 months. Southern states, on the other hand, have the lowest percentages of people who say they visited the dentist. The nine states with the lowest incidence of dentist visits are in the South.”
This is what I used for determining the ranking of those most likely to go to the dentist. In addition, the Population Reference Bureau compiled statistics of people over 25 with a Bachelor’s degree to determine how educated a state’s residents were, which is what I used in this article. (The data was also from 2011, to match the Gallup poll.)
Six of the top states for dental visits were also in the top 10 most educated states. Those that were not include Hawaii (18th in education), Rhode Island (12th), Wisconsin (27th), and Utah (16th).
Eight of the bottom states for dental visits were also in the bottom ten for education. Those that were not include Missouri (32nd in education) and Texas (29th).
Interestingly, Massachusetts came in first place in both categories. Mississippi came in last for dental visits and 49th for education.
For the full lists visit America's Best (and Worst) Educated States and Residents in Mass., Connecticut Lead Nation in Dentist Visits.
Lauren Burns is the editor of Proofs magazine and the email newsletters RDH Graduate and Proofs. She is currently based out of New York City. Follow her on Twitter: @ellekeid.