Category Archives: Oral health

Expanded use of dental therapists on tribal lands gains editorial backing

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: Dana via FlickrThe Swinomish Indian Tribal Community defends its recent hiring of a dental therapist as an act of tribal sovereignty, despite continued resistance from the dental community.

Photo: Dana via FlickrThe Swinomish Indian Tribal Community defends its recent hiring of a dental therapist as an act of tribal sovereignty, despite continued resistance from the dental community.

A recent news package in the Seattle Times detailed the challenges faced by poor Medicaid patients in seeking dental care.

Now members of the newspaper’s editorial board are calling for reforms they say would improve access to dental services in the state.

“Too many of Washington’s residents insured by Medicaid are not able to get the dental care they need, which endangers their general health as well,” they wrote in the editorial.

“Two simple things should be considered to improve the situation. The state could explore licensing dental therapists, who can provide limited basic services at a much lower cost than dentists,” the editors noted. “The other is to begin increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates, at least for certain patients, especially those at risk for costly health complications.” Continue reading

Controversy heats up over Native American tribes’ use of dental health aide 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: Liz West via Flickr

Photo: Liz West via Flickr

Last July, Brian Cladoosby, leader of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington, announced that his Puget Sound-based tribe was preparing to take a controversial step in an effort to address its longtime problems with tooth decay.

“We as Indians have long faced an oral health crisis and the crisis is only growing,” noted Cladoosby. “But there just aren’t enough dentists in Indian Country to address the crisis … That is why we are expanding the Swinomish dental team through the proven solution of training and employing dental health aide therapists.” Continue reading

Weaving data, human stories into compelling series on dental deaths

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.

Brooks Egerton

Brooks Egerton

In early 2014, a 4-year-old Dallas boy named Salomon Barahona Jr. died after undergoing sedation for a dental procedure.

The child’s death spurred Dallas Morning News reporter Brooks Egerton to embark upon what turned out to be a major reporting project – an 18-month investigation of dental safety in the United States.

Egerton sifted through thousands of records detailing patient harm and endangerment drawn from many sources: state and federal regulators, police, coroners, academic researchers, courts, litigators, insurers, dental schools and dentists themselves. Continue reading

States vary widely at providing better dental care to Medicaid adults

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: Parker Knight via Flickr

Photo: Parker Knight via Flickr

States across the country have shown progress in getting more Medicaid-eligible children into dental chairs in recent years.

Meanwhile, poor adults in many areas continue to go without care. A new study concludes that while 95 percent of American adults value keeping their mouths healthy, low-income adults often fail to achieve it. Continue reading

Investigation highlights spotty regulation of fatal dental errors nationwide

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 courtney0609 via Flickr.

Photo by courtney0609 via Flickr.

In a recent seven-part series for the Dallas Morning News, investigative reporter Brooks Egerton explores dental treatments that have ended tragically and gaps in the enforcement system that is supposed to hold the nation’s dentists accountable.

The Deadly Dentistry series opens with the story of a 4-year-old Dallas boy, Salomon Barahona Jr., who died in early 2014 after undergoing sedation for a dental procedure. Continue reading