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

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

One ethnic neighborhood fights disparities in effort to reduce childhood tooth decay

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.

Oral health has improved for the children of San Francisco in recent years. The decay rate among kindergarteners has fallen nearly 10 percent since 2008, city health officials report.

The news is great, but there is a hitch. Not all children are sharing equally in reduced decay.

As is true across the United States, San Francisco’s children of color continue to bear a disproportionate burden of disease.  Continue reading

Dentists urged to find non-opioid alternatives to ease patient pain

Photo: Herry Lawford via Flickr

In response to the nation’s epidemic of opioid addiction, health care leaders including U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have urged providers to consider alternatives when helping patients manage pain.

Among those receiving the appeals are dentists, who have been among the leading prescribers of opioid pain medications, according to numerous studies. Dentists regularly write the prescriptions for patients who have undergone surgical tooth extractions, according to a research letter published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Continue reading

Community water fluoridation efforts get boost from EPA ruling

The ongoing controversy over community water fluoridation is unlikely to go away despite a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling that won praise from the American Dental Association (ADA) and similar groups.

The EPA denied a petition filed by groups seeking to ban the addition of fluoride to community water systems, a longtime practice aimed at reducing tooth decay. Critics of the practice, led by the Fluoride Action Network, contend that that fluoride supplementation poses neurotoxic risks to the U.S. population. Continue reading

Reporter turned on-deadline account of a dental death into more than a tragic story

Sammy Caiola

Sacramento Bee health reporter Sammy Caiola worked quickly to give her readers the story about the death of a young California father from complications of a dental infection.

Her reporting began at 10 a.m. on Jan. 31 when she found the kernel of the story in an email. By that afternoon, Caiola had tracked down and visited with the man’s grieving widow, interviewed a knowledgeable local dentist on the causes of dental deaths and located peer-reviewed research that added depth and context to her piece. Continue reading