By JIM WORKMAN
The State Journal
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The latest health report concerning the Mountain State is nothing to smile about.
West Virginia ranks No. 51, the lowest score in the United States, according to a WalletHub report titled “2017’s States with the Best & Worst Dental Health.”
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota and Connecticut performed the best, ranking 1-5.
WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 23 indicators of dental health. The data set ranges from “share of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year” to “dental treatment costs” to “share of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition,” according to the report.
Gerald A. Clark, D.D.S. of Charleston said the report brings light to the multifaceted problem of poor dental health in West Virginia.
“There is a large rural population in or state where access to dental care is limited,” Clark said. “Although dental care for children is made available even if they are uninsured, there are many adults without dental insurance who will only seek treatment in an emergency situation. This, in my opinion, has created a perpetual cycle where dental care is not a priority.”
Problems of high sugar consumption, smoking and drug addiction compound the issue of dental health in West Virginia, Clark added.
“There is no easy solution,” he said. “There’s a need for more programs like the Kanawha Dental Health Council who go into the schools to educate students on the importance of good oral hygiene, as well as providing in school clinics to provide actual care to those who qualify. Also the dental services provided by West Virginia Health Right and Family Care to adults at a reduced price are integral. Programs like the Pre-Employment program and Donated Dental are also assisting to help those that are disadvantaged.”
As more of these types of programs are needed, funding them will become an issue, Clark said.
“It will take creativity in the current economies climate to resolve poor oral health in our state,” he added.
The WalletHub report states “A brilliant smile is known to do wonders to a person’s self-esteem, and oral health tends to speak volumes about one’s general well-being,” but dental health is more than simply vanity, the report also points out. Oral diseases result in global productivity losses and treatment costs totaling an estimated $442 billion per year.
Here are the results of WalletHub’s “Dental Health in West Virginia,” with 1 signifying “Best” and 25 representing “Average.”
18th – Percentage of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year
29th – Dental treatment costs
47th – Dentists per capita
35th – Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among adolescents
36th – Percentage of adults with poor or fair oral condition
49th – Percentage of adults who experienced pain in the past year due to their oral condition
49th – Percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to their oral condition
In a September 2016 WalletHub report, West Virginia didn’t fare much better in overall health. It ranked No. 45 in “2016’s States with the Best & Worst Health Care.”
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