Category Archives: Oral health

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

Report: States fail to provide cost-saving dental procedure to children

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 Penn State via Flickr

Photo by Penn State via Flickr

Dental sealants have been proven to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay.

Yet many states are lagging in efforts to get the quick and cost-effective treatments to poor kids who are often at the highest risk for cavities, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Sealants, which are thin plastic coatings, professionally applied to the chewing surfaces of the first and second permanent molars, are most effective when they are placed soon after the teeth erupt. The procedure costs one-third of the price of filling a cavity, according to Pew. Continue reading

Covering the wild west of microbiome research #ahcj15

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.

Since stool transplants have turned out to be useful in fighting deadly hospital-borne C. difficile infections, new claims about the healing powers of poop are everywhere.

The slogan on panelist Jonathan Eisen’s black t-shirt, spelled out in pink glitter, captures the current entrepreneurial mood: “Ask Me About Fecal Transplants.”

A wide array of products and innovations are already promising to help us improve our inner flora. Yet reporters and consumers need to be wary.

“Microbiome hype” is rampant, warned Eisen, Ph.D., a professor from the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine and College of Biological Sciences. Continue reading

Native American tribe wields sales tax to promote healthier eating

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  Mike Licht via flickr.

Image by Mike Licht via flickr.

Hoping to encourage healthier eating habits, leaders of the Navajo Nation have imposed a potentially precedent-setting tax on junk food and sodas.

The 27,000-square-mile territory, which extends into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, as of April 1 added a 2-cent sales tax to an existing 5-cent sales tax on most goods sold there, Eliza Barclay reported for National Public Radio’s food blog, The Salt. Fresh fruits and vegetables sold on the reservation have been tax-free since October as part of the tribe’s healthy eating initiative. Continue reading

Study: Sugar industry influenced plan to prevent tooth decay

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: Uwe Hermann via Flickr

Photo: Uwe Hermann via Flickr

Under the influence of the sugar industry decades ago, federal health officials stepped back from an ambitious campaign to wipe out tooth decay, according to a newly published study.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed previously unexplored sugar industry documents from the 1960s and early 1970s to reach their conclusions. The paper describing the findings appeared in March in PLOS Medicine.

The documents trace industry interactions with the National Institute of Dental Research (now the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research) during a period when health officials were planning to launch the National Caries Program, an initiative with a goal of eradicating tooth decay within a decade. Continue reading

Survey shows improvement in preschoolers’ dental health, but disparities persist

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.

Though deep disparities in oral health remain, preliminary findings in a new federal report suggest that tooth decay among American preschool children may be declining overall.

Bruce Dye

Experts stress that the study, detailed in a National Center for Health Statistics data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reflects just two years’ worth of data, but hail the news as hopeful.

About 23 percent of children age 2 to 5 years had decay in primary teeth, according to 2011-2012 data from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which has become an important tool for assessing the state of the nation’s oral health. Continue reading

Investigation reveals dental board’s lack of transparency

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 SalFlako via flickr.

Image by SalFlako via flickr.

How transparent is your state dental board when it comes to helping patients find out more about their dentists?

In Arizona, the state board of dental examiners has taken actions against hundreds of dentists in recent years. But it can be difficult for a patient in the state to find out if his or her dentist has been in trouble.

Linda Holt started worrying about the quality of her dental care after suffering complications from an implant procedure, Phoenix-based ABC-15 television explained in one part of a recent investigative series.

But if she had checked the profile of her dentist, Glenn Featherman, on the Arizona Board of Dental Examiner’s website she would not have been able to tell that he had recently been cited by the board for problems that arose with an implant procedure he performed on another patient. Continue reading