Tag Archives: Children

Questions arise about oversight of pediatric dentists, sedation

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.

Alia Wong

The state of Hawaii continues to investigate the death of a three-year-old girl who went into a coma after visiting a dentist’s office.

Last month, I wrote about the coverage by Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I also put together a pediatric anesthesia tip sheet with links to some helpful resources.

In the meantime, reporter Alia Wong has also been following the tragic story of the death of Finley Boyle and weighed in with a long Jan. 21 piece for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Wong brings us up to date on the kinds of questions that are being raised in the wake of the child’s death. She writes that questions are being raised about whether dentist Lilly Geyer, who was treating Finley, should have been advertising herself as a “children’s dentist.”

And she explains that “pediatric dentists do a rigorous and competitive two-year residency program in which they get training in specific skills such as child sedation while general dentists aren’t required to do a residency program.”

In a Q&A for AHCJ, she reveals what other questions have come up and what she learned about sedating children for dental procedures. See what story ideas her experience might spark for you.

HHS moves to block chain of dental clinics from receiving Medicaid

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.

David Heath

David Heath

Small Smiles, one of the nation’s largest dental chains, is facing exclusion from Medicaid, David Heath of the Center for Public Integrity reported this week.

The chain has been accused of performing unnecessary treatments on children to boost profits. With Medicaid dental providers in short supply in many communities, the ouster of Small Smiles from the program could send thousands of poor families in search of new dentists.

“The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services notified the chain last week that after years of monitoring, the company remains out of compliance with the terms of a 2010 settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit brought by the Justice Department,” Heath wrote in his March 11 report. Continue reading

Studies reveal contradictions in efforts to improve socioeconomic status

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health. To help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network, Rojas-Burke will hunt for resources, highlight excellent work and moderate discussions with journalists and experts. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or tweet to @rojasburke.

“You as a society have made a decision that child poverty is what you want. I can only assume that’s the case. Otherwise you would do what European countries are doing and use taxes and transfers to reduce child poverty.”  – Michael Marmot

Sir Michael Marmot isn’t the first to call out the United States for its exceptionally high rate of child poverty. About 45 percent of American kids are growing up in families that are poor or near poor (below 199 percent of the federal poverty level), up from 40 percent in 2006, according to a recent analysis.

This degree of social inequality helps explain why the health status of Americans is failing to keep up with progress in other wealthy nations. But how to make things better is not so clear. Two remarkable studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month highlight some of the paradoxes and hidden pitfalls inherent in efforts to boost the socioeconomic status of poor kids. Continue reading

Free clinics mark Children’s Dental Health Month

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 ktpupp via flickr.

Image by ktpupp via flickr.

Open wide! A free one-day dental clinic for low-income children may be coming to a school or community center near you.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity for oral health professionals and advocates to raise awareness about the importance of getting care to kids, particularly those who might otherwise go without.

On Friday, Feb. 7, the American Dental Association is officially kicking off its 12th annual Give Kids a Smile Day program with free care for kids at the Howard University College of Dentistry here in Washington, D.C.

Similar events are being planned throughout the country. To find out what is going on in own area, check with your local or state dental society.

Give Kids a Smile clinics are typically organized differently than the big free Mission of Mercy events that have crowds of adults lining up spontaneously at fairgrounds and gymnasiums. The 175 children expected at the Howard University dental college were screened in December by volunteer dentists who visited local elementary schools. The kids will be getting their needed follow-up treatments on Give Kids a Smile Day. Continue reading

Dentist under investigation after sedated child dies

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.

A Hawaiian pre-schooler died after lapsing into a coma in a dentist’s chair. Now state authorities are investigating her dentist, according to a report by Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. (The articles are behind a paywall but AHCJ has been given permission to republish them here.)

“The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has begun an investigation of Kailua dentist Dr. Lilly Geyer after a 3-year-old girl fell into a coma while she was in the dentist’s chair and later died,” Essoyan reported on Jan. 8.

“Finley Puleo Boyle, the only child of Ashley and Evan Boyle of Kai­lua, never awoke after losing consciousness and suffering massive brain damage following heavy sedation at the dentist’s office Dec. 3, her mother said.”

The little girl died Jan. 3 at a local hospice. Continue reading

National look reveals gap in access to pediatric 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.

Dental hygenist

Image by The National Guard via flickr.

Catherine Saint Louis of The New York Times took a hard national look at the pediatric dental benefits being offered on the state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

Her reporting led her to the troubling gulf that oral health advocates have been warning about.

While kids’ dental coverage is included as one of the 10 essential health benefits under the nation’s health care reform law, “pediatric dental care is handled differently” from other coverage on the federal and state exchanges, she wrote in her Dec. 16 story, “A Gap In the Affordable Care Act.”

Dental plans “are often sold separately from medical insurance, and dental coverage for children is optional,” she noted. “People shopping on the exchanges are not required to buy it and do not receive financial support for buying it.”

Experts have cautioned that the problems could leave millions of children without access to dental care. Continue reading

Health care quality study: Good news, bad news and in between

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by thor_mark via flickr.

Image by thor_mark via flickr.

Health plans had poor results last year on reducing the use of antibiotics and on ensuring that chemically dependent patients received recommended and timely follow-up care, according to the State of Health Care Quality Report 2013 from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) released last week.

Health plans had good results last year on getting more children to have their body mass index (BMI) measured and get referrals for nutrition counseling, NCQA reported.

By showing trends in how managed care plans deliver care, this annual report is a rich source of data for health care journalists. Continue reading

A different story in each state: Get tips on covering pediatric dental benefits 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.

As state health insurance marketplaces opened for business, Marissa Evans of Kaiser Health News offered a nice consumer-friendly Q&A on pediatric dental and vision care under the Affordable Care Act.

It started like this:

Q: “Will I be required to buy pediatric dental care if I purchase insurance on the exchange?

A: “Most likely, no. Children’s dental care may be included in some plans offered on the marketplaces. But many insurers may offer it as a stand-alone policy, which you are not required to buy under federal law, though people in some states are required to do so. Nevada and Washington state, for example, are requiring this coverage…”

Now there is the rub for health care reporters.

When it comes to the new health insurance exchanges, every state has its own pediatric dental benefits story.

In the next five years, an estimated 3 million children are expected to become eligible to receive private dental benefits through the insurance marketplaces set up by the states. They will be among the approximately 8.7 million children who stand to gain extensive dental coverage through the ACA.

(Another 3.2 million kids are anticipated to get coverage under Medicaid and another 2.5 million through employer-sponsored insurance, according to the American Dental Association. All told, the health care reform law could reduce the number of children without dental benefits by 55 percent, the ADA finds.)

But back to pediatric dental benefits on the exchanges. How is your state coping with the challenges of offering them? And will the benefits result in getting more kids the dental care they need? 

Time – and good reporting – will tell. To help with that good reporting, see this tip sheet on pediatric dental benefits under the ACA and be sure to tune in for today’s webcast, “Will families buy kids’ dental benefits on new exchanges?” at noon ET.

Dentists borrow a tactic from gun-control advocates

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 Crystal via flickr.

Image by Crystal via flickr.

Call it a teachable moment.

Halloween candy buyback programs have become a popular way for dentists and orthodontists to let the public know about their practices while getting out the word about the dangers of sweets.

Melissa Daigle, of KYTX-Tyler, Texas, recently interviewed Culberson Boren, D.D.S., who offers local children $1 a pound for their candy.

“A lot of people are trying to get guns off the street,” Boren told her. “We’re trying to get candy off the street.”

“We’ve been fighting cavities here for, probably 30 years now. So, usually when I see parents, I tell them, let their kids eat candy four times per year – Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine’s.” Continue reading

Toolkit, scientists offer tips on covering oral health in rural communities

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.

Mobile dental clinic

Image by Michael Coghlan via flickr.

Want to know more about innovative dental care programs reaching rural areas? Curious about oral health disparities in isolated communities? Looking for rural health contacts, programs or statistics for your state?

You might want to check out a Rural Oral Health Toolkit just launched by the Rural Assistance Center, a rural health information portal established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Initiative.

The toolkit is primarily geared toward helping rural communities set up successful and sustainable oral health programs. But it might just as easily serve as a source of story ideas and background for journalists covering rural places.

On the site you can learn about initiatives such as the “Into the Mouths of Babes” program. It addresses the shortage of Medicaid dentists in rural North Carolina by training physicians to apply fluoride varnishes to the teeth of small children.

You also can find out more about mobile clinic programs that have been successfully bringing screenings, education and care to children in isolated communities from Louisiana to South Dakota. There are school-based, dental home, community outreach and workforce auxiliary models as well. Elsewhere on RAC’s site, you can locate directories for rural hospitals and federally qualified health centers and state-by-state listings for rural health care resources. Continue reading