Author Archives: Mary Otto

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

Aftermath of child’s death continues to highlight risks of pediatric dental anesthesia

Photo: Omar Bárcena via Flickr

A state jury found a former Hawaii dentist not guilty of manslaughter and other criminal charges related to the highly publicized death of a 3-year-old girl under her care.

It was the latest development in a nearly five-year-old case that focused attention on the potential risks to children who receive anesthesia or other sedation as part of a dental procedure. Continue reading

Maine’s Medicaid expansion won’t help those who need dental care

Backers of Maine’s Medicaid expansion, approved by voters in 2017, have been locked in a court battle with outgoing Republican governor Paul LePage, an outspoken opponent of the step.

At the same time, Gov.-elect Janet Mills, a Democrat, has offered assurances that she will put the expansion into place “on day one” if it hasn’t been implemented by the time she assumes office in January, Joe Lawlor of the  Portland Press Herald reports.  Continue reading

Passage of Dental Health Act a rare act of bipartisanship

The Action for Dental Health Act of 2018 has been described as a modest piece of legislation.

But supporters have also hailed the measure as a heartening acknowledgment by federal legislators of the need to respond to the long-unmet dental needs of millions of Americans. In a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress last week passed the legislation, which is headed to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. Continue reading

New research highlights gulf between primary care, dental care

Photo: Minh-Kiet Callies via Flickr

A pediatrician sees a child with untreated tooth decay, but doubts a dentist will be available in the child’s community. The pediatrician does not write a referral.

A dentist notices a patient’s suspicious oral lesion, but fails to follow up. Care is delayed.

A pregnant woman with an infected tooth is advised to seek dental care but has no regular oral health provider. She ends up in an emergency room where her underlying dental problem remains unresolved.

Continue reading

Refugees face special challenges in maintaining oral health

Photo: John M via Flickr

Among the many needs of refugees newly-arrived in the United States, dental care can be a particularly difficult and pressing one to obtain.

Fleeing lives of repression and trauma, some refugees have never had access to routine oral care. Continue reading

Report: Pregnant women have harder time obtaining dental care, regardless of income

Photo: NIAID via Flickr

There is a shortage of state and national data on the subject, but studies suggest that women face unique barriers in obtaining dental services during pregnancy, according to a new issue brief from the nonprofit Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP).

Experts agreed that “preventive, diagnostic, and restorative dental treatment is safe throughout pregnancy and is effective in improving and maintaining oral health.” Continue reading