Category Archives: Oral health

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

Some dental clinics seeing influx of Medicaid clients under ACA

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.

Thanks to Medicaid expansion and stepped up enrollment efforts under the Affordable Care Act, adults in some states including Oregon, are now eligible for dental benefits.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo playerReporter Grace Joyal, of KTVZ-Bend, Ore., recently visited a rural dental clinic that has been coping with a significant increase in new patients.

“Since January 2014, the Oregon Health Plan reports that almost half a million people have signed up for the state’s version of Medicaid,” Joyal reported. “The Affordable Care Act has meant a massive influx of patients for dental clinics.” Continue reading

Seniors struggle to access adequate 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.

Photo: Maggie Osterberg via Flickr

Photo: Maggie Osterberg via Flickr

Many Americans lose their private dental benefits when they retire.

But Medicare, the nation’s health insurance program for seniors, does not cover routine dental procedures.

The situation leaves millions of elders, living on fixed incomes, making hard choices about when to seek care – and, as in Thelma Chappell’s case, postponing a dental visit until the pain gets too bad to ignore. Continue reading

Sociologist offers insights on health navigators, finding wider lessons in personal stories

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.

Elizabeth Piatt

Elizabeth Piatt

Trying to help her sister Veronika, who is disabled, with a dental emergency, Elizabeth Piatt found herself negotiating a labyrinth of personal feelings and Medicaid paperwork. The job of getting Veronika the care she needed was fraught with challenges. Piatt emerged from the experience with new insights into the Medicaid system that serves America’s poor, and a new sense of compassion for the patients who struggle within that system.

Piatt, an assistant professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, also came out of the experience convinced of  the need for a better network of health navigators to help Medicaid patients find care and services.

Piatt shared the story of her journey in a  piece entitled  “Navigating Veronika: How Access, Knowledge and Attitudes Shaped My Sister’s Care” that was featured in February’s Health Affairs.

She shares further insights, as well as some tips on exploring a personal story for its wider lessons, in this AHCJ Q&A.

Communities may see water fluoridation levels drop because of revised recommendations

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.

waterStressing that community water fluoridation remains an important tool in fighting tooth decay, public health officials have updated their recommendation for the “optimal” level of fluoride in drinking water nationwide.

The new standard, 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, was announced on April 27 by the U.S. Department of Human Services.

The level replaces a recommended range of 0.7 mg to 1.2 mg of fluoride per liter of water in place since 1962.

The optimal level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considered to be when the amount fluoride in drinking water is adequate to help prevent tooth decay in children and adults while limiting risk of problems such as fluorosis, a discoloration or mottling of the tooth enamel that can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride. Continue reading

E-cigarette panel lit up a debate at #AHCJ15

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Pia Christensen/AHCJ Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, independent journalist Sonya Collins and Des Moines Register health reporter Tony Leys  listen as public health researcher Judith Prochaska of Stanford Prevention Research Center talks about e-cigarettes.

Pia Christensen/AHCJ Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, independent journalist Sonya Collins and Des Moines Register health reporter Tony Leys listen as public health researcher Judith Prochaska of Stanford Prevention Research Center talks about e-cigarettes.

The Health Journalism 2015 panel on e-cigarette use, or vaping, was anything but dull. Des Moines Register health reporter Tony Leys lined up the selection of guests, including public health researcher Judith Prochaska of Stanford Prevention Research Center, American Vaping Association president Greg Conley and Atlanta-based independent journalist Sonya Collins. The highly divergent presentations of Prochaska and Conley expertly set up Collins’ final presentation to talk about the middle ground she found in her reporting.

The greatest challenge for journalists in writing about e-cigarettes is that they are so new – the data we would like to have are not available yet. The data that we do have are greatly limited. The opinions and perspectives of stakeholders vary greatly and are passionate. Public health researchers who recall the days of Big Tobacco’s lies regarding the harms of cigarettes are deeply skeptical and uneasy about investigating potential benefits or reduced risks from e-cigarettes. Continue reading