Reporter explores how state’s economic health affects its oral health

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health and the author of “Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.” She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

The Oklahoma newspapers in the Community Newspaper Holding Inc. (CNHI) chain offered readers a series that examines the everyday challenges that many state residents face in meeting basic needs.

For stories in the weekly Overextended Oklahomans series, journalists from participating newspapers have looked at the burdens exacted by payday lending, childhood hunger and the shortage of neonatal care. In one recent installment, reporting team member Caleb Slinkard offered a detailed exploration of how a scarcity of dental care is impacting poor and rural Oklahomans.

Caleb Slinkard

In this new Q&A, Slinkard, who is the editor of the Norman Transcript, and who has overseen his paper’s 15-member newsroom for the past two years, offers insights into his “Dearth of Dentistry” package.

He reflects upon what oral health can tell us about economic health and how budget decisions have influenced the availability of benefits, providers and fluoridated water in the state. He also shares tips that might help fellow journalists take a similar look at oral health access in their own communities.

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