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

International group shares concerns about disconnect between dental, medical care

Photo: World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr

Back in 2000, then-Surgeon General David Satcher warned in his landmark “Oral Health in America” report about the nation’s “silent epidemic” of oral disease.

Satcher described the disproportionate burden of untreated disease borne by millions of poor, minority and elderly Americans, the shortage of providers in many communities, the disconnect between dental care and the wider health care system. Continue reading

Study: Add poor oral health as a contributor to malnutrition among older adults

Photo: Susan Sermoneta via Flickr

New research on senior hunger serves as a reminder of the impact that untreated dental disease may have upon overall health.

Researchers examining risk factors for malnutrition among elderly emergency room patients concluded that oral health problems outranked other adversities in contributing to the patients’ nutritional deficiencies. Continue reading

Reporter describes opportunities, challenges in covering oral health stories in ethnic neighborhoods

Laura Klivans/KQEDDentist Richard Choi volunteers his time screening students at San Francisco’s public schools for overall oral health. He grew up in the Chinatown and North Beach communities and likes revisiting schools he once attended.

Tooth decay puts a particularly heavy burden upon children of color, as do the pain and tooth loss that can result from untreated disease. With a growing recognition of the problem, professional, school and public health leaders in some communities are banding together to take action.

There are compelling stories to be reported about these efforts, as health reporter Laura Klivans found on her beat. In a recent State of Health story for KQED News, Klivans reported on a coalition that is bringing dental care to children in one San Francisco’s minority neighborhood. The story also gave her audience a better understanding of the specific factors that are contributing to the community’s high decay rate. Continue reading

Changes in health care landscape could mean big stories in oral health

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJPanelist Mary Foley focused on the potential changes in financing of oral health programs that serve the public during a discussion at Health Journalism 2017.

It is hard to know, amid the ongoing battle to reshape the nation’s health care system, what the future holds for dental care.

Panelists at Health Journalism 2017 tackled the unknown yet crucial territory that lies ahead in a session entitled “Oral Health Stories to Watch in 2017.” Speakers encouraged the reporters in the audience to remember to ask good questions about dental services as they cover their beats in the months ahead. Continue reading

Freelancers weigh in on what it takes to successfully write a book at #AHCJ17

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJFreelance journalists take notes during a panel that focused on writing books.

“Can you afford to write a book?”

This question keeps many journalists awake at night. It also served as the title for a compelling panel discussion at Health Journalism 2017.

The harsh and rewarding realities of taking on a book project – from the original moment of inspiration to the promotion of the final product – were explored by experts, including publishing industry veteran Amanda J. Moon. Continue reading