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

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

Administration’s regulatory roadblocks stymie dental guidelines

Photo: David Joyce via Flickr

At more than 100,000 offices and clinics across America, dentists stay busy placing and removing amalgam fillings as they care for their patients.

Dental amalgam – a mixture of metals such as silver, tin, copper and zinc bound together by mercury – is valued by clinicians for its workability, low cost and strength. Regulated as a medical device, dental amalgam is considered safe for most patients over the age of 6. Continue reading