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Dental Care State By State: Where Do You Stack Up?

Huffington Post     First Posted: 09/25/11 12:22 PM ET   Updated: 11/25/11 05:12 AM ET

Growing up, most of us learned how to brush our teeth and gums, and were instructed to do so at least twice a day, without exception -- and for good reason. Beyond the obvious benefits of dental health, which include avoiding unsightly teeth stains and painful cavities, a healthy mouth has been increasingly linked to other health issues.

Just this summer, a study found a possible link between gum disease and an increased difficulty conceiving children, and periodontal disease has been linked to a host of heart problems -- including coronary artery disease -- as well as an increased chance of becoming diabetic. It seems fairly clear that oral health is something that we shouldn't be neglecting. Unfortunately, a recent Gallup poll suggests that many Americans do just that.

177,000 adults throughout the U.S. were interviewed for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and asked if they had visited a dentist in the past 12 months. Overall, only 65 percent of adults said that they had, which leaves a large segment of the population without adequate dental care. And since the data was collected by state, the survey also reveals some telling regional differences in oral health:

Regionally, people living in states in the Northeast and upper Midwest are the most likely to say they visited the dentist in the past 12 months. Southern states, on the other hand, have the lowest percentages of people who say they visited the dentist. The nine states with the lowest incidence of dentist visits are in the South.

One of the major contributing factors to this trend has to do with access to health insurance. In the 10 states where the most people had visited a dentist in the past year, residents were -- on average -- more than 15 percent more likely to have health insurance that in the states that fell to the bottom of the poll.

Click through to see a full list of the top 10 -- and bottom 10 -- states.

Best: #1, Massachusetts
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75.3 percent of residents visited a dentist in the last 12 months.
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