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

Americans cross the border for affordable dental care

Photo: yi via Flickr

BuzzFeed news reporter John Stanton took a trip over the Mexican border for a look at dental tourism. He found plenty of Americans seeking low-cost root canals, crowns and implants in Los Algodones.

Since the 1980s, the border town has evolved into a dental and eye care hub. The 600 dentists who work there (along with 150 optometrists and 20 medical doctors) have earned the place the nickname “Molar City.”

Continue reading

Child’s death highlights effort to reduce risks of dental surgery

Three-year old Daleyza Hernandez-Avila died on June 12 after being placed under general anesthesia at a Stockton, Calif., dental surgery center.

The child was scheduled to undergo routine treatment, including the placement of dental crowns and a possible tooth extraction during her appointment, Veronica Rocha reported for the Los Angeles Times. Continue reading

Dental health advocates fear loss of coverage under GOP plan

Thanks to progress credited to the Affordable Care Act, only about 11 percent of Americans lack health insurance. Yet approximately a third – more than 100 million – remain dentally uninsured, according to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP).

Dental coverage was never a major focus of the ACA. Still, some headway has been made in getting oral health benefits to more Americans since its passage. Continue reading

Watchdog reporter takes on dental therapist access issue

Photo: Legislative Support ServicesBrian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, speaks at the February 22 bill signing for Washington state’s SB 5079 which increases access to affordable dental care. Behind him are Sen. John McCoy, left, and Gov. Jay Inslee, right.

Kathy Hoekstra’s beat covering national regulatory issues for the public interest news organization, now has led her to America’s dental divide.

In recent months, Hoekstra has focused on the legal angle to examine the dental therapist debate now roiling in statehouses across the country.

Dental therapists often are compared to nurse practitioners in the medical world. Trained in a narrow range of preventive and restorative procedures and employed in some countries around the globe, they have attracted supporters among U.S. oral health advocates who see the speciality as an affordable means to expand access to dental services for millions of Americans who currently lack routine care. Continue reading

Arizona to add limited dental services for Medicaid-eligible adults

Photo: Wonderlane via Flickr

America’s poor children are entitled to dental benefits under Medicaid. But adult dental benefits are considered an optional part of the program, and they vary from state to state.

A small handful of states, including Arizona, offer no adult Medicaid dental benefits at all. But in May, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a budget that includes $1.5 million to cover emergency dental services for adults enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). Continue reading