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Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Dental Lab Products. He is also the author of 18 technology books, including the award-winning Green IT: Reduce Your Information System's Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line. As such, he’s particularly interested in the technological side of dentistry.
We looked at every state and picked out the 10 worst to be a dentist in this year.
Ten best (or worst) lists are always fun but eternally debatable. There are a few ways people tend to look at these sorts of lists.
The first is to question our findings: “Who are THEY to say that North Dentalsota is the best place for dentists to work?”
The second is sort of a rubbernecking effect: “If those are the 10 best, then where are the 10 WORST?”
The third - and the way that we intend for you to interpret these findings - is as a way to say, “Yay! I don’t work there!” or, “Oh boy. We have some work to do.”
So, here we are.
We compiled data from personal finance website WalletHub (giving us dental health rankings); U.S. News & World Report (who contracted researchers McKinsey & Company to evaluate the states for such metrics as healthcare, finance and crime rates); and the government’s Occupational Employment and Statistics program (to find out employment data specific to dentists).
We ranked each of the 11 metrics for every state on a scale from 1 to 50. The best state got a one, the worst got a 50. We then compiled those numbers - the best states got the lowest total; the worst (again, here we are) got the highest numbers.
It’s important to realize that not one single dataset should define a state as the best or worst. For instance, if we ranked them solely on highest wage, Alaska would be in the top of the pack, yet other factors placed it squarely in the middle of this list. There are other considerations impacting quality of life, including crime, stress levels and education.
The metrics that we used are:
And with that, here is our ranking for the 10 worst states for dentists.
Our list starts out with the Sunshine State. The first statistic is actually sort of misleading. For employment, the state had the fourth largest number of dentists (about 5,900 in 2016). Its location quotient is 28, meaning that when compared to the rest of the country, the state could use even more dentists. The bulk of the rest of the data places the state in the middle or toward the bottom of the states’ rankings. Unfortunately, the state, as a whole, ranks toward the bottom of the pack for oral health and dental habits. This means that Floridians could really use more dental care. Regrettably, it ranks very low on insurance (46), meaning that paying may be an obstacle to getting the appropriate dental care. It may also explain why the state’s dentists don’t get paid as much ($166,180 per year) when compared to other states.
9. South Carolina
To the north, in the Palmetto State, there are fewer dentists (1,450), but they get paid more ($191,520 per year). The most remarkable statistic is, of course, that the state comes in dead last in education. That ranking may scare some dentists away from the state, perhaps not wanting to raise a family there. Oral health and dental habits are also fairly low for South Carolina. Insurance coverage is low too, which likely is a reason for the state’s low dental scores.
The Volunteer State could use more dentists. While its average wage is not too bad ($187,500) Tennessee does have the worst location quotient score of all states. With 1,040 dentists, the state comes in at number 30 with its sheer number of practitioners. Tennessee ranks 37 in dental habits and oral health - more evidence that it could use more oral healthcare professionals. However, with somewhat low insurance coverage rates, paying for those dental visits can be an obstacle. The state also has a not-so-great crime ranking, meaning that safety can be an issue. On the other hand, the state ranks 16th in affordability, which means that doctors’ paychecks will go further than in 34 other states.
When you think of Nevada, the first thing that comes to mind is probably Las Vegas (or, possibly, Area 51). But, obviously, there are more locations in the Silver State than Sin City. Because Las Vegas is so synonymous with being an adult playground, it’s hard to imagine that it would rank number 44 in stress. But, again, that number is reflective of the entire state. The good news for Nevadan dentists is that the state comes in fifth place for the annual mean wage ($210,690). In terms of employment numbers, the state comes in at number 31 with 910 doctors. What really seems to bring Nevada to the bottom of the list are its rankings for education (49) and insurance (43). The state is somewhat low in its dental habits and oral health rankings, but certainly not the worst on the list.
6. West Virginia
The Mountain State has the dubious honor of coming in last place for oral health and is barely above that for overall dental habits. That could be because the state ranks number 40 in the overall number of dentists. Doctors may not be attracted to the state because of its relatively low salary ($162,690 per year). Low oral health numbers and dental habits are somewhat surprising because the state ranks number 10 in overall dental insurance, meaning that most residents should be able to pay for their dental care. But, for whatever reason, they don’t seem to be pursuing it. Its affordability ranking comes in at a respectable tenth place, and overall crime numbers place it at number 18. The state does come in near the bottom of the pack for overall stress though.
If you just look at salary, Alaska is a great place to live. On average, dentists living in the Last Frontier earn $234,240 per year (only behind Delaware at $236,130 and North Carolina at $236,020). Not too bad. However, this is where the other numbers come into play.
Dentist may need that extra money because the state’s affordability comes in at number 46. Other notable numbers that counterbalance Alaska’s high wages are crime (it ranked number 47) and insurance coverage (it ranked almost last with number 49). Overall oral health came in at 46. Factoring all those numbers together, along with the relatively small number of dentists in the state (270) and residents’ overall dental habits (38), it just isn’t enough to offset the salary.
Dental habits and oral health (along with overall healthcare) are enough to push the Natural State into the bottom of the state rankings. While affordability is reasonably high (Arkansas is ranked number 12), its high crime rate and relatively low education scores - coupled with the aforementioned healthcare rankings - help push the state to the bottom of the list. Dentists earned somewhat above average in Arkansas ($185,170), but the state could use more dentists - especially when we consider dental habits and oral health as well as the state's sheer number of practitioners (700), and the fact that the state comes in fairly low in its location quotient.
The Magnolia State shares similar rankings with Arkansas. Specifically, the state’s dental habits and oral health are very low. The state ranked number 35 in terms of employment (there were 770 practicing dentists) with an average wage of $172,600 per year. Like many other entrants on the list, low insurance coverage may account for some of those bad dental and oral health numbers - residents may not have access to the oral healthcare that they need. Things aren’t all bad for Mississippi however; it ranked number 13 in affordability and 15 in overall education.
Numbers for the Yellowhammer State paint a bleak picture for dentists. While this state was almost right in the middle for overall employment (there were 1,130 dentists), and the overall salary was a bit above average (it came in number 21 with $183,480 per year), this state came in dead last for stress. Overall healthcare, dental habits and oral health were also very low on the list, which is another reason that the location quotient is very telling - the state needs more dentists. However, this state also ranked somewhat low for insurance coverage, so many residents may not have access to adequate dental care, even if more oral healthcare professionals are available.
No one wants to come in last on a list of worst places, but, as with any list, someone has to be there. The numbers for dentists in the Pelican State just don’t look good. Dentists in Louisiana earn the least out of all dentists in the country ($126,030). The state’s crime ranking was also the worst in the country. Louisiana’s overall healthcare numbers are also lacking - healthcare and dental habits came in at 45, while oral health came in at 43. The state’s location quotient came in at 49, demonstrating just how much the state needs more dentists. However, like many states, its insurance coverage was low, which can be a big hindrance to residents seeking dental care.