Tennessee was ranked third worst dental care and habits, and the 41st overall worst dental health. States that ranked worse than Tennessee in dental care and habits were Mississippi and Louisiana, respectively.
Using 26 metrics to measure dental health, such as percentage of adults smokers and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, Tennessee routinely ranked among the worst five states in the country on many of the metrics.
In the study, Tennessee was found to have the second lowest percentage of adolescents and the fifth lowest percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the last year, the fifth highest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, the fifth highest percentage of adult smokers, and the fourth highest percentage of elderly population with no natural teeth.
One metric that saw Tennessee shine, however, was in dental treatment costs, with the study finding Tennessee to have tied for first in the nation for having the lowest oral care costs.
State leadership has not ignored Tennessee’s health issues, however, with former Gov. Bill Haslam launching the Healthier Tennessee Initiative in 2013. Since then, the amount of clinical services performed at Tennessee Department of Health dental clinics rose from below 150,000 to 198,457 in 2017, the latest year such data is available.
The Nurse’s Fluoride Varnish Program, a public health program in Tennessee that sees public health nurses apply fluoride varnish to at risk and underserved children aged 0-5, more than doubled its services from 2013 to 2017, from treating just under 20,000 children in 2013 to treating 40,111 in 2017.
Despite the progress on this front, Tennessee still struggles with dental health, with many residents unable to afford care.
Williamson County residents who may not have the means to afford dental and oral care are encouraged to visit the Williamson County Health Department, which “offers comprehensive dental services to children and emergency care to adults on a sliding fee scale according to income,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Williamson County Health Department is open Monday through Friday, and is located at 1324 W Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064.