Tennessee Dental Health Needs Improvement



The dental health statistics in Tennessee leave a lot to be desired.

About 20 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 have lost at least sixth teeth because of some type of decay, infection or gum disease, according to the Commonwealth Fund. These numbers are about two times the national median.

There were only about two-thirds of the people in the state that visited a dentist or a dental clinic in 2010, according to a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 53,000 people visited a hospital emergency room for some kind of dental care in 2009, according to a Pew Center study. Roughly 24,000 of those visits were for a dental condition that could have been prevented, according to the same study. The study also discovered that emergency room visits for preventable dental conditions rose 7 percent from 2005 through 2009.

These problems stem from the fact that many counties in the state, like Chattanooga, Bradley and Whitfield, are federally underserved dental areas by official standards.

Another issue for Tennessee residents is that Tennessee is one of six states in which dental care is not covered for Medicaid enrollees older than 21.

Based on all of these issues, free dental clinics are the best bet for people to receive dental care. The problem is the amount of people that can be served by these clinics can never account for all people that need some type of dental treatment.

These issues will likely continue to worsen in Tennessee if reforms aren’t made in the way dental treatment is handled.