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

Minnesota’s dental therapist experiment receiving good reviews

Photo: Mark via Flickr

Minnesota’s first dental therapists went to work six years ago. Now approximately 70 of the licensed midlevel providers are offering preventive and restorative care in clinics and dental offices around the state.

When state legislators approved the dental therapist model in 2009, they hoped the addition to the state’s dental workforce would expand access for underserved Medicaid patients. Lack of care for poor patients is a problem in the state, as it is across the country. Continue reading

Many states slow in offering dental sealant programs for at-risk children

Photo: Penn State via Flickr

Professionally applied dental sealants offer effective protection against tooth decay. Moreover, progress has been made over recent decades in getting these useful treatments to kids.

Still, the work is far from done. Overall, fewer than half of American children have received the thin plastic coatings applied to the biting surfaces of newly-erupted molars. Particularly concerning to health officials and oral health advocates is the shortage of sealants among low-income children, who face an elevated risk of disease and suffer from higher rates of untreated decay. Continue reading

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