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

Dental chain in spotlight after child’s death, separate settlement in fraudulent billing case

In Arizona, relatives of 2-year-old Zion Jay Gastelum are trying to find out why the toddler died after a recent dental appointment.

Zion’s parents took him to a Kool Smiles dental clinic on Dec. 16 for a crown and filling, according to an uncle, who spoke to KNXV-Phoenix.

“Somehow either during or after the process, it appears Zion stopped breathing,” reporter Mike Pelton noted in his Jan. 5 story. Continue reading

Unnecessary prescribing of dental antibiotics may be adding to C. diff cases

Photo: Francisco Bengoa via Flickr

Potentially deadly Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which sickened an estimated half million Americans one recent year, has gained notoriety as a hospital-acquired infection.

Patients who have taken antibiotics face an elevated risk of acquiring the diarrheal disease, and the majority of infections occur in health care facilities, research has shown. Continue reading

Could loan forgiveness bring dental care to underserved patients?

Photo: Pedro Presilha via Flickr

Many newly-minted dentists are burdened by the high cost of a dental education.

The average dental student graduates with more than $261,000 worth of debt, reporter Ramsey Touchberry told viewers in a recent story for University of Florida-based WUFT, citing figures from the American Dental Education Association.

Now some Florida legislators are pushing for legislation that would create a loan forgiveness program to help recent dental school graduates pay off those bills. At the same time the measure would get more care to poor and underserved communities in the state, the legislators say. Continue reading

Philly journalist discusses silver diamine fluoride and other children’s health issues

Anna Nguyen

A prominent pediatric dental organization recently issued guidelines for a treatment that can offer a painless, minimally invasive alternative to drilling and filling teeth.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has offered a “provisional recommendation” for the use of silver diamine fluoride (SDF) to halt and manage tooth decay in children.

The product, which is painted onto the diseased area of the tooth, been used in Japan for years but has only recently attracted the attention of U.S. healthcare providers. Continue reading

U.N. official’s tour explores impact of extreme poverty in the United States

Photo: Omar Bárcena via Flickr

During a two-week U.S. fact-finding tour, Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said he observed scenes of suffering from coast to coast: in homeless encampments in California, in storm-ravaged enclaves in Puerto Rico, and in marginalized communities of the deep South and West Virginia.

A shortage of healthcare, infrastructure and sanitation services in low-income and minority communities are taking a serious toll, Alston said during a Dec. 15 press conference in Washington, D.C., at the conclusion of the tour. Continue reading