Category Archives: Oral health

Reporter explains how she cultivated sources for story on senior dental care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Hanah Cho

Millions of seniors in America struggle to find dental care. Hanah Cho met a few of them who were grateful to find care at a clinic run by the North Dallas Shared Ministries.

The patients’ frank accounts of their pain and relief, included in a recent feature by Cho, brought the issue home for readers of The Dallas Morning News.

Cho, who is now a writer/editor at the personal finance startup NerdWallet, took time to reflect on her May 13 dental story, “Bridging the Dental Care Gap for Seniors,” in this Q&A for AHCJ.

She offers thoughts on the challenges and breakthroughs she experienced in putting together the project. She also shares some wisdom on how she convinced people to talk about their troubles with their teeth. Read about how she did the story.

Earliest known evidence of dentistry detected in re-examined Paleolithic tooth

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image via Nature(A) Occlusal view of the RM3. (B) Detailed view of the large occlusal cavity with the four carious lesions and the chipping area on the mesial wall. Section A-A is directed mesio-distally, passing through the larger carious lesion. (C) MicroCT slice of the Villabruna RM3 in correspondence with section A-A.

Image via Nature(A) Occlusal view of the RM3. (B) Detailed view of the large occlusal cavity with the four carious lesions and the chipping area on the mesial wall. Section A-A is directed mesio-distally, passing through the larger carious lesion. (C) MicroCT slice of the Villabruna RM3 in correspondence with section A-A.

Scientists studying a decayed lesion within an ancient wisdom tooth say they have discovered the earliest known evidence of dentistry.

The cavitated third molar belonged to a young man said to have lived and died in Northern Italy during the Late Upper Paleolithic era.

Images from inside the 14,000-year-old tooth, obtained using scanning electron microscopy, disclosed a pattern of chipping and striations that researchers say were made using a tiny stone pick. Continue reading

Reporting uncovered one of Texas’ largest Medicaid scandals

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

GraphicStock

GraphicStock

The tip about troubles in Texas’ Medicaid dental system was part of a routine conversation. But it was enough to make reporter Byron Harris start digging.

He and his colleagues at WFAA-Dallas spent nine months scrutinizing data, wearing out shoe leather, following up on leads and trying to get people to talk.

In  2011, the “Crooked Teeth” stories raised profoundly troubling questions about oversight of the Medicaid dental program in Texas; the millions upon millions spent on orthodontic services for beneficiaries; the suspect billing practices of many providers. The 11-part investigative series uncovered one of the largest Medicaid scandals in the history of Texas. Government audits, reform efforts and lawsuits followed in its wake.

Harris continues reporting on the issue. He recently filed another story after federal officials concluded that the state owes $133 million for unnecessary dental work. “Texas paid $191,410,707 for unallowable orthodontic services from 2008 through 2010, according to a federal investigation,” Harris told viewers on June 3. “And officials say the federal government now wants a large portion of that money back.”

In this “How I Did It” article, Harris takes us back to the very beginning of “Crooked Teeth.” He explains how the project began, and how it unfolded. He also shares some wisdom on how to use data to follow up on a tip.

Closure of struggling Arizona clinic highlights challenges for low-income dental patients

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by via Ace Armstrong  Flicker.

Photo by via Ace Armstrong Flicker.

Getting dental care was already hard for low-income adults in Arizona.

Now officials in Coconino County have reluctantly announced their decision to close a dental clinic that has long served the poor and uninsured.

County officials say they are considering a plan to provide vouchers so patients can seek care elsewhere. But there is no guarantee the voucher program will be in place by the time the clinic closes on Sept. 30.

And other questions remain: What services will be covered by the vouchers? Which dentists will accept them? Continue reading

Tribal leaders take new approach to improving dental health

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: National Congress of American IndiansBrian Cladoosby

Photo: National Congress of American IndiansBrian Cladoosby

The Seattle Times last month profiled tribal leader Brian Cladoosby, a longtime leader of Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, which has a reservation on Puget Sound. He also is serving a second year as president of the National Congress of American Indians.

The story, by Times’ outdoor editor Brian J. Cantwell, opens with a scene of Cladoosby fishing for king salmon on the Skagit River. The piece goes on to explore Cladoosby’s outspoken defense of salmon habitats and tribal sovereignity, his colorful, sometimes controversial leadership style and his willingness to go to court to win his battles. Continue reading

Percentage of adult Americans with cavities remains high, study notes

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by ktpupp via Flickr.

Although tooth decay and tooth loss have been declining in recent decades, more than nine of 10 working-age Americans have cavities in permanent teeth, a new federal report shows.

“Among adults aged 20-64, 91 percent had caries and 27 percent had untreated tooth decay,” conclude the authors of a data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The data were drawn from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The survey, really an ongoing series of surveys, serves as a major tool for assessing the status of the nation’s oral health. NHANES’ size and depth make it unique. The study combines face-to-face interviews and physical examinations of a nationally representative sample of about 5,000 people each year. The work is overseen by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Continue reading

Dallas TV station hasn’t let go of Medicaid dental fraud story

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Byron Harris and his colleagues at WFAA-Dallas have been reporting on Medicaid dental fraud in Texas for years.

Photo: WFAA

The allegations of widespread fraud and abuse related to braces for poor children first came to light in their 2011 Crooked Teeth investigation.

The “Crooked Teeth” stories revealed that Texas was spending more on Medicaid orthodontic services than the nation’s nine other most populous states combined. The reports raised questions about whether dentists were providing unneeded braces to Medicaid children and sending the program the bill.

Now, there’s a new chapter to the story. Federal officials have concluded the state owes $133 million for unnecessary dental work. Continue reading

Reporter offers tips for covering vaping, e-cigarettes

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Sonya Collins

Sonya Collins

Atlanta independent journalist Sonya Collins has carved a niche for herself covering the controversial world of e-cigarettes.

Her feature, “When the Smoke Clears,” which appeared in Georgia State University Magazine, was recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists in the 2013 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. Attendees at Health Journalism 2015 might have heard her speak on the panel “Cutting Through the Haze of E-Cigarettes.”

In an article for AHCJ, Collins offers some insights into how she researched and wrote that first big story and where her reporting has led her since. While there still is a lot that is unknown about the safety of these products and their use – often referred to as “vaping” – Collins shares some thoughts on how to craft informative stories about the evolving culture, research and regulations surrounding e-cigarettes. Read more here.

Potential billing abuse by Medicaid dental providers a fertile area for coverage

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Once the ACA covers children's dental care, will parents drop their dental insurance?

Photo by ianus via Flickr

An estimated 8 percent of Medicaid dental providers in California submitted questionable bills to the program during one recent year, a recent federal report concluded.

Half of the dentists whose bills raised concerns worked for dental clinic chains.

The findings are the latest in an unfolding examination of Medicaid dental billing practices led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Continue reading

Florida dentist accused of abuse, fraud in treatment of young patients

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

CNN filed its “Nightmare Dental Procedures Done on Kids” report under “Stories that Shock,” along with tabloid-worthy accounts of a child being dragged by her school bus and a woman kidnapped after responding to a personal ad on Craiglist.

The piece opens with the surreptitiously recorded sounds of instruments whirring and a child wailing, then shifts to a scene on a public sidewalk in Jacksonville, Fla., where angry protesters have gathered outside the office of a 78-year old pediatric dentist, Howard S. Schneider. Continue reading