Combs, Ky. (WYMT)-- About half of adults living in Appalachia visited a dentist last year, according to data released by the Foundation for a healthy Kentucky.
Fifty-one percent of Kentuckians living in Appalachia visited a dentist in the last year, compared to 71 percent of Kentuckians living outside the region, the study showed.
"There's plenty of research out there that shows that you can't disconnect the health issues in your mouth from the health issues in the rest of your body," said Dr. Susan Zepeda, C.E.O. of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
Despite the disparity, more people are seeking dental care, according to Perry County dentist, Dr. Robin Pennington.
"People didn't have insurance, and the people back then and five years ago had insurance, and were working. Now most people are dependent on Medicaid plans, and the Obamacare plans," said Pennington.
His business has picked up recently, including many cleanings, extractions, and fillings.
"We've had a lot of people come in in the last few, say, months, that have said, 'I would have liked to have gotten some things done before, but I didn't have any insurance,'" he said.
Public health officials at times fight a mentality that assumes teeth cannot last a lifetime, Zepeda said.
"Some people expect their teeth will eventually get decayed and fall out because their parents' did and their grandparents' did," said Zepeda. "So it's really a matter of sharing the good word that you don't need to lose your teeth."
Zepeda remains optimistic for the next generation of Kentuckians.
"We think that making dental sealants and certain dental procedures more available in schools is going to be a helpful process," she said.