Author Archives: Mary Otto

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at

Children’s health advocates anxious that CHIP funding will slip through the cracks

Photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Amid the ongoing debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, another landmark federal health care program faces an uncertain future.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides medical and dental coverage to nearly nine million children of the working poor, marked its 20th anniversary in August. But funding for CHIP runs out on Sept. 30, and unless a divided and distracted Congress takes action to renew it, state CHIP programs could start running out of money later this year, analysts warn. Continue reading

Newspaper’s economic health series explores role of oral health

Photo: David Joyce via Flickr

The oral health of a state or community can serve as an interesting lens for examining economic health. That is the message that a series in the Enid News & Eagle recently brought to its 40,000 readers in northwest Oklahoma.

In its Overextended Oklahomans project, the newspaper has been exploring many aspects of the everyday struggles many state residents face in meeting basic needs. Continue reading

What we can learn from the failed effort to pass ‘Caleb’s Law’ in California

Laurel Rosenhall

As part of her beat covering politics for the nonprofit media organization CALmatters, Laurel Rosenhall has documented the long battle of two bereaved parents working to convince California lawmakers to tighten state law as it relates to dental anesthesia.

After their son, Caleb, died two years ago, Tim and Eliza Sears launched an initiative to require that two highly trained professionals – a dentist or oral surgeon and an anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist or similar specialist – be present when providing dental care to children under anesthesia. They say such a requirement might have saved their child. The couple has faced significant resistance in their quest, as Rosenhall reported in her July 11 piece, “Dental Lobby Wins Again: Grieving Parents Shelve Caleb’s Law Rather Than Dilute It.” Continue reading

Mass. may be moving closer to use of dental therapists to hold down Medicaid costs

Photo: Spazzy Max via Flickr

Earlier this summer, Gov. Charlie Baker lent his support to a long-running effort to bring a new class of dental providers to Massachusetts.

The governor included language that added dental therapists in a package of measures aimed at containing the rising costs of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. Continue reading

When covering the opioid epidemic, don’t forget the dental angle

Photo: ^Thais^ via Flickr

President Donald Trump’s decision to declare opioid addiction a national emergency could be at least a step toward addressing the complex crisis blamed for claiming more than 33,000 lives in 2015.

The emergency declaration potentially could be used to expedite state responses, dispatch U.S. Public Health Service personnel to hard-hit communities and step up requirements for prescriber education, according to Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, who was interviewed for a Washington Post story. Continue reading