LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A recent report from WalletHub showed that Arkansas is the second worst state in the nation when it comes to taking care of our teeth.
Experts in the state explained that there are a few reasons why that is.
"We have a challenging state in terms of the rural nature of our state," Delta Dental President and CEO Kristin Merlo said. "We have a lot of counties that either have one or there are sometimes no dentists in the county."
The lack of dentists nearby isn't just a problem here in Arkansas.
"While it might feel like it, it's worse here, it's really there's a long way to go to improve access to preventive dental care in all states," she said.
Merlo added that the pandemic also impacted overall dental health.
"People I think, maybe thought during the pandemic, well, I didn't have a major problem. Why should I go back? A lot of dentists are reporting that their practices are filling up," she said.
Dr. Ashley McMillan has seen that firsthand at the UAMS dental clinic.
"We're busier than we've ever been, which is a great problem to have," Dr. McMillan described.
She also explained that she has been seeing patients she hasn't seen in years.
"What was a healthy mouth two and a half years ago, is now a mouth that needs a lot of treatment to get healthy because of the two and a half years that we didn't see them," McMillan said.
She said having more dental schools in Arkansas and more incentives for recent graduates could help with the problem.
"There are a lot of states that have a really great incentive for recent grads to go to these rural areas. We have some loan repayment options, but I think to even increase those options for dental grads," she said.
McMillan also added that putting dental clinics in rural areas would help— but it's not an easy fix.
"While that would be ideal, it's just financially not possible for recent graduates to do it. So there have to be other ways to attract new dentists to the area," she said.
According to the report, the state that falls below Arkansas at #51 on the list is Mississippi.