As Minnesota's dentists prepare to provide free care to needy children, they do so knowing their partly responsible for the state having the best teeth in the nation.
That's according to WalletHub, which looked at 23 different indicators of dental health to determine that Minnesota has the pearliest whites out of the 50 states, ahead of neighbors Wisconsin and fellow Midwesterners Illinois.
WalletHub looked at data including how often children and adults visit the dentist, how much treatment costs, reported oral problems, soft drink consumption and smoker numbers.
Minnesota scored highly in categories including the percentage of adults who have visited the dentist in the past year, and the lowest percentage of elderly population with no natural teeth.
It's also the state with the lowest percentage of adults with oral condition that is considered just "poor" or "fair."
Give Kids a Smile
The findings come as the Minnesota Dental Association is set to hold its annual "Give Kids a Smile" drive on Friday and Saturday, with more than 350 dentists and 1,800 volunteers set to take part in the charitable event that gives free dental care to thousands of children in need.
Around 125 clinics across the state will be taking part in the event, which is expected to attract 4,000 needy children to surgeries.
"Minnesota dentists know every child deserves a winning smile," Dr. Kevin Dens, president of the Minnesota Dental Association, said in a press release. "There is so much unmet need for dental treatment in Minnesota."
The association says nearly one in four children aged 2-11 have untreated cavities in their baby teeth and more than half of Minnesota children enrolled in Medical Assistance have not received dental care in the past year.
This is made more difficult, the association claims, because Minnesota has the "lowest-in-the-nation ranking" for reimbursing dentists who treat patients on government dental programs.
A few years ago, MPR reported that the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor said the state doesn't pay dentists enough for treating Medical Assistance patients, and as a result too many state dentists are unwilling to serve these low-income patients.
The Star Tribune reported last year that shortages are particularly bad in outstate Minnesota, where patients are having to travel in some cases hundreds of miles to find a dentist that serves MA patients.