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One Kentuckian in Ten Has No Teeth at All

- December 26, 2007

The headline for this item may sound like a joke, but it’s not. It’s a fact.

In a December 24 article in the New York Times, Ian Urbina reports that Kentucky leads the nation in the percentage of residents who are missing all their teeth. The reasons?

bq. The economy: “Everyday people … are too busy putting food on the table to worry about oral hygiene.”

bq. The culture: “Many of them savor their sweets, drink well water without fluoride and long ago started ruining their teeth by chewing tobacco and smoking.” (Kentucky has the highest rate of cigarette smoking in the country and one of the highest proportions of chewing tobacco use.) Also operative is “a pervasive assumption that losing teeth is simply part of growing old.”

bq. Politics: “Kentucky is among the worst states nationally in the proportion of low-income residents served by free or subsidized dental clinics, and less than a fourth of the state’s dentists regularly take Medicaid … Until August 2006, when the system was revamped, the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rate was also one of the lowest in the country. Experts say this contributed to the shortage of dentists in poorer and more rural areas.”

To read the full article, click here.

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