Updated: February 12, 2018

Alabama ranks 49th in overall dental health and 51st in dental habits and care, according to a new study released this week. Tennessee ranks 38th in overall dental health and 40th in the nation in dental habits and care.

The study by WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key indicators of dental wellness. It ranked the states and D.C. in two categories — dental health and care, and oral health — then combined the performance in these two categories to arrive at its overall rankings.

Dentist Clay Reese, from Athens, said the primary causes of tooth decay in Alabama are poor dietary habits — such as diets high in sugars from sodas, sweet tea and sugary foods — and socioeconomic factors that limit access to care.

Reese offered one simple way to improve your dental health and that of your children.

"Start seeing the dentist at an early age to establish good oral-hygiene habits," he said.