Category Archives: Oral health

SCOTUS decision on teeth-whitening business may hold wider implications for medical boards

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 by waldopepper via Flickr

Image by waldopepper via Flickr

Lisa Schencker of Modern Healthcare  and Anne Blythe of the Raleigh News & Observer were among the first reporters to get the news out.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the North Carolina state dental board does not have the authority to regulate teeth-whitening businesses.

In a 6-3 decision, the justices found the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners, which is comprised mostly of dentists, illegally quashed competition from non-dentists who sought to open teeth-whitening shops in the state. The decision, which upheld a lower court’s ruling, has the potential to impact other professional licensing boards across the country, experts say. Continue reading

Momentum grows to establish dental therapists; what about your state?

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 by  Herry Lawford via flickr.

Image by Herry Lawford via flickr.

Mid-level dental providers are at work in countries from the United Kingdom to Malaysia. Here in the United States, advocates are pushing hard to get states to enact laws that would open the way for dental therapists to get care to people who might otherwise go without it.

Organized dental groups, including the American Dental Association have fought the model, contending that only dentists have the training to perform what are termed irreversible procedures such as drilling and extracting teeth.

Even so, dental therapists, who provide care under the general supervision of dentists, are now treating patients in tribal areas of Alaska as well as in poor communities in the state of Minnesota. Maine has also passed legislation and is moving forward with therapists.

Meanwhile, other states are considering the model. Is yours one of them?

There is a lot going on in this area to write about, so this seems like a good time to offer a tip sheet that features some of the latest coverage and resources that might help you explore this topic.

People with disabilities face barriers to get dental treatment

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 Royal Navy Media Archive via Flickr

Photo by Royal Navy Media Archive via Flickr

We’ve read about the difficulties of getting dental care to patients in nursing homes and other institutions. People living with disabilities in the community may also face formidable challenges in getting the dental care they need.

Finding a dentist with the training and willingness to accept a patient with special needs can be tough. Medicare and Medicaid benefits may be inadequate. Patients who need to undergo general anesthesia in a hospital because they are frightened or physically unable to lie still in a dental chair often face particularly high barriers to getting dental treatments.

Elizabeth Simpson offered readers of The Virginian-Pilot a detailed look at this issue in a January story that centered on the experiences of one local woman and her family. Continue reading

Reporter shares lessons learned about questioning conventional wisdom

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" Parveen chopra via Fickr

Photo” Parveen chopra via Fickr

“The decision to remove wisdom teeth often seems like a routine part of young adulthood. But more people are starting to ask whether it’s always necessary,” Elise Oberliesen told readers of the Los Angeles Times in a recent story.

“Those who oppose automatically taking out those four teeth say “watchful waiting” is a better path because the teeth and surrounding gum tissue might remain normal, making costly surgery unnecessary,” she wrote. Continue reading

Vapor from e-cigarettes triggers changes to cells in lab study

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: Jonny Williams via Flickr

Photo: Jonny Williams via Flickr

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes are growing in popularity among American adults, and while some states restrict their use by minors, nearly 1.8 million American middle and high school students reported using them one recent year, a federal study found.

The battery-powered devices work by vaporizing a liquid solution that users inhale. They are sold in various flavors, including mint and chocolate, and typically contain nicotine as well as a propellant to create the vapor. Continue reading

Questioning the wisdom behind removing third molars

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" Parveen chopra via Fickr

Photo: Parveen chopra via Fickr

Americans spend about $3 billion annually getting wisdom teeth removed. But some experts are now questioning whether the procedure is always necessary, Elise Oberliesen recently reported in a story for the Los Angeles Times.

“Those who oppose automatically taking out those four teeth say ‘watchful waiting’ is a better path because the teeth and surrounding gum tissue might remain normal, making costly surgery unnecessary,” Oberliesen writes.

The four back teeth, also known as the third molars, generally erupt in young adulthood. But they sometimes only partially break through the gum. The teeth can become impacted because there’s not enough room in the jaw. Impaction can lead to decay, inflammation, the formation of cysts and other problems. Continue reading

Mother, legislators advocate for more regulation of pediatric dentistry

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.

On Jan. 4, Ashley Boyle returned to Kailua Beach to remember her lost child.

The date marked a year and a day since 3-year-old Finley Boyle died. The little girl lapsed into a coma after undergoing a dental procedure, reporter Ben Gutierrez reminded viewers of Hawaii News Now.

A medical examiner’s report found that Finley suffered cardiac arrest after she was given sedatives during a procedure at Island Dentistry for Children in December 2013. She died a month later, on Jan 3, 2014. Continue reading

N.M. bill would establish licensing procedure for dental therapists

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 Jan van Broekhoven via Flickr

Photo by Jan van Broekhoven via Flickr

Dental therapists are already providing care to patients in underserved communities in Minnesota and in remote Alaskan tribal areas.

Maine legislators approved legislation clearing the way for the technically trained auxiliaries to go to work in that state last spring.

A similar push has been underway in New Mexico in recent years. Now a state legislator has filed a bill for consideration in the session that begins this month that would establish a licensing and practicing framework for the midlevel oral health providers in that state writes Rosalie Rayburn in a Nov. 19 story for the Albuquerque Journal.

As proposed in the bill, therapists would function like “physicians’ assistants for dentists” working under a supervision agreement with dentists that would allow them to provide services from satellite offices, Rayburn reports. They would be trained to perform procedures including dental fillings, basic extractions and denture adjustments, according to Health Action New Mexico, which supports the effort. Continue reading

Posts about Ebola, oral health, ethics and data among year’s top reads

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

As we close out 2014, take a look back at the most popular Covering Health posts of the year:

Thanks for reading and contributing ideas and comments this year!

Lessons learned in covering passage of a soda tax

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.

Tom Lochner

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 elections, Tom Lochner covered the debate over soda tax questions on the ballots in Berkeley and San Francisco. When the results became clear, he reported on the outcome for the Contra Costa Times.

In this Q&A, Lochner offers his insights into how the historic vote in Berkeley unfolded, why the soda tax didn’t pass in San Francisco and he shares a few words of wisdom for reporters who may find themselves covering soda tax debates in their own communities.

Berkeley’s penny-an-ounce tax passed in spite of heavy opposition from the American Beverage Association. Bourque predicted a sea change in the air. “The tides have turned on Big Soda.”

In this Q&A, Lochner offers his insights into how the historic vote in Berkeley unfolded and he shares a few words of wisdom with reporters who may find themselves covering soda tax debates in their own communities.