State of Decay

Dental health problems can happen to anyone, anywhere – but some states are noted for their particular “state of decay,” according to the American Dental Association’s (ADA) 2015 Oral Health & Well-Being in the United States report.

The Study

The ADA’s report summarizes self-reported data based on participants’ oral health status, attitudes and dental care behavior, using an innovative household survey.

We examined two criteria presented in the report to list best and worst states based on oral health: (1) overall condition of mouth and teeth and (2) dental problems due to condition of mouth and teeth. The results of the criteria were combined to create an overall dental health score which ranked the states from best to worst.


Where does your state fall on the list?

Best States for Oral Health

1. Illinois

2. Ohio

3. Connecticut

4. Michigan

5. Maryland

6. Indiana

7. Massachusetts

8. Minnesota

9. Nebraska

10. New Hampshire

Worst States for Oral Health

1. Arkansas

2. Louisiana

3. Montana

4. Maine

5. West Virginia

6. Florida

7. Mississippi

8. California

9. Alabama

10. Iowa

Is your state lacking in its dental care?

You can improve your oral health by attending biannual dental exams and maintaining proper oral hygiene. Here are a few tips to boost your oral health and decrease your risk of developing gum disease, tooth decay and other dental problems:

  • Brush thoroughly twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Use dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste
  • Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash if suggested by your dentist
  • Make sure children under 12 drink fluoridated water or take a fluoride supplement, if living in a non-fluoridated area

Located in a Dental Health Provider Shortage Area (HPSA)?

Maintaining a healthy smile can be difficult if your area lacks access to dentists. An area is designated a dental HPSA if there is less than one dentist for every 5,000 people (1:5,000). Currently, there are 4,900 dental HPSAs in the United States.

If you live in a dental HPSA and have trouble finding a dentist near you, follow these tips to ensure proper dental care.

  • Eat properly
    • Avoid sugary, sticky foods that can get caught in your teeth
    • Brush your teeth after eating sticky or acidic foods
    • Skip the soda and drink water or milk instead
  • Visit a dentist in a non-HPSA
    • Schedule an appointment while on vacation or visiting friends and family
  • Maintain proper dental care
    • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
    • Floss regularly
    • If you’re feeling pain or discomfort or notice something unusual, see a dentist as soon as possible so that the problem does not get worse physically and become more costly

No matter where you live, a healthy smile is achievable with good oral hygiene practice and regular trips to the dentist. Read our article 3 Habits You’re Proud of That Hurt Your Teeth to learn how to improve your dental routine!


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