The Best and Worst States for Regular Dental Check-Ups

September 26, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

A number of factors can determine whether or not a patient makes regular dental appointments. However, a Gallup survey found rates of regular dental appointments can vary greatly depending on the state.

Regular dentist visits are key both to patient health and to a dental practice’s bottom line, but as dentists know all too well, many patients don’t make regular check-ups a priority.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about 83% of children ages 2-17 went to the dentist at least once in the year. However, that rate dropped to 62% for adults.

That same year, Gallup conducted a wide-ranging national survey of America’s oral health habits and found a similar number — about 65% of Americans – were making annual dental visits.

As William Kohn, DDS, vice president of dental science and policy for Delta Dental, told Dentist’s Money Digest in March, patients who miss appointments represent lost revenue for a practice.

“Every person who comes into your office is going to spend some money, either through their insurance carrier or out of pocket,” Kohn said. “And if it’s an insured person, most preventative and diagnostic services are paid at near 100%.”

There are a number of strategies to help patients make and keep appointments, but data suggest that one of the biggest reasons patients don’t keep appointments isn’t forgetfulness — it’s financial concerns. Gallup has found that wealth can be a major predictor of how often a patient visits the dentist — the higher a patient’s salary, the more likely they are to visit a dentist each year.

As it turns out, region is also a strong predictor of whether a patient makes annual dental visits. Patients in the northeast tend to have the highest rates of regular dental visits. Southern states have a weaker record.

What follows are the five states with the highest rates of annual dentist visits, followed by the five states with the lowest rates of annual visits, according to Gallup’s survey. In addition to the state’s rate of annual dental visits, we’ve also included other key wellness metrics from Gallup, including the percentage of people in each state who are uninsured, the percentage of people who say they’re worried about money, and the state’s “Overall Wellbeing” score, which is a metric Gallup calculates based on a variety of data and scored from 1 to 100. The national average for Overall Wellbeing is 61.7.

Top States for Dental Visits

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 72.4%

Percentage of Uninsured: 5.9%

Percentage Worried About Money: 33.6%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 62.4

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 72.6%

Percentage of Uninsured: 10.3%

Percentage Worried About Money: 28.2%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 64.1

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 73.8%

Percentage of Uninsured: 5.6%

Percentage Worried About Money: 37.0%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 61.9

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 74.5%

Percentage of Uninsured: 3.5%

Percentage Worried About Money: 35.1%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 61.8

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 74.9%

Percentage of Uninsured: 6.4%

Percentage Worried About Money: 34.7%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 62.2

Worst States for Dental Visits

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 56.3%

Percentage of Uninsured: 22.3%

Percentage Worried About Money: 36.0%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 62.7

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 56.1%

Percentage of Uninsured: 9.6%

Percentage Worried About Money: 37.1%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 60.9

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 55.3%

Percentage of Uninsured: 15.7%

Percentage Worried About Money: 37.6%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 61.1

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 55.2%

Percentage of Uninsured: 16.5%

Percentage Worried About Money: 38.1%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 60.4

Percentage of Patients with Annual Visits: 53.0%

Percentage of Uninsured: 14.7%

Percentage Worried About Money: 38.7%

Overall Wellbeing Score: 60.9

Sources: Gallup Dental Survey, Gallup State of the States Report.