National Study Shows Regular Dental Visits Essential to Improving Country’s Oral Health

Tooth be told, America is fighting a relentless battle against cavities and oral diseases. The good news is Iowans boast some of the country’s brightest, whitest and healthiest smiles.

Toothbrush.org ranks the Hawkeye State as having the 13th best dental health among the USA’s 50 states. Iowa scored 64.57 out of 100 possible points in the study. Iowans’ dental habits and care ranked 10th, while our oral health ranked 16th. Minnesota boasts the best teeth in America, ranking No. 1 in the study with a point total of 79.13.

The American Dental Association won’t rest until all 50 states and territories in the union are posting winning scores and strong overall oral health.

“We work diligently to help improve oral health, but as long as there are people who are not in good oral health, that challenge remains,” new ADA president Dr. Jeffrey Cole said.

An Uninsured Health Issue

Alas, for many Americans, the greatest obstacle to developing strong oral health, has nothing to do with brushing, flossing and healthy eating.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Controls reports 36 percent of the U.S. Isn’t receiving preventive care, which leads to poor oral health, significant health risks such as heart disease, and a lower quality of life. One in four Americans does not have dental insurance and dental insurance is widely perceived as the least affordable health care service, according to Toothbrush.org. Two-thirds of people who haven’t been to the dentist in a year site expensive dental costs as the reason why. The National Association of Dental Plans reports 74 million Americans didn’t have dental coverage at the end of 2016.

Toothbrush.org’s national oral health study found 77 percent of adults planning on visiting the dentist in the next year. Unfortunately, only one-third will follow through. The ADA’s new president is driven to change those statistics and the state of the smiles of the country’s poorest oral health states. In Toothbrush.org’s study, Arkansas has the U.S.’s worst teeth, followed by Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi and West Virginia.

“The ADA’s challenge is there are people who aren’t in good oral health, and we need to change that,” Cole said.

An Insurance Access Epidemic

A major hurdle to getting America’s older citizens insured is the lack of coverage in Medicare. Most state programs lack coverage for dental care. As of January 2018, only 17 state Medicaid programs offered comprehensive adult dental benefits.

That sobering fact keeps many seniors from seeing the dentist, and keeps America’s overall oral health in a state of crisis. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of a larger problem. Dentists regularly prevent and detect issues through regular cleanings that can lead to even more serious health problems.

“I’ve seen it in my own practice,” Dr. Sidney Whitman, a dentist who treats Medicaid patients in New Jersey, told the New York Times. “Without adequate oral health care, patients are far more likely to have medical issues down the road.”

Help Is Available

The ADA urges all Americans to research their companies’ health insurance policies for affordable dental care and stresses there are affordable dental insurance options available for Americans of all financial standings. The key is knowing where and how to find them:

  • Dental Schools: Dental clinics give both dental students hands-on experience and give patients their services at a reduced price.
  • Non-profit programs: Local community services can connect low-income families to dentists and orthodontists who donate services.  
  • Discount Dental Plans: Discount plans charge an annual fee in exchange for discounted services from network providers. Before buying into a plan, look over its list of covered procedures to see if they are ones you are likely to use.  As independent insurance broker PolicyGenius notes, “If you know you’re going to be spending some time in the dentist’s chair soon – and especially if you require an expensive dental procedure immediately – the right discount plan could save you hundreds of dollars.”
  • Charitable Clinics: Check with your city’s public services department for a list of low-cost or free dental clinics in your community. America’s Dentists Care Foundation offers services from volunteer dental professionals.

Iowa.gov offers a comprehensive list of low-cost dental service options available in the Hawkeye State.

Getting America to the dentist regularly is an essential element to improving America’s overall oral health. Remember, there’s no better friend for your teeth than your dentist.

As the Iowa Oral Health Center stresses, seeing the dentist regularly helps “protect the health and wellness of every Iowan through the prevention and early detection of dental disease” and enables the Hawkeye State’s people reach “optimal oral health.”

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