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 mary@healthjournalism.org.

California death revives concerns about sedation of children

Image by Paul Goyette via Flickr.

The California Dental Board is investigating the case of a 4-year-old boy who died after receiving anesthesia at an Oakland dental office.

The Dental Board of California has confirmed that it is investigating the death of a patient at the Oakland office of Youthful Tooth. In a written statement, the board declined to comment on the specifics of the case. Reporter Gwendolyn Wu offered these details in a May 16 story for the San Francisco Chronicle: Continue reading

White paper calls for more attention to endodontic oral care

Photo: Lorenia via Flickr

A survey of dozens of dental organizations from Brazil to Vanuatu reveals that patients around the globe dread root canal treatments.

A new white paper from the Geneva-based FDI World Dental Federation aims to dispel the fear surrounding such procedures and highlight the tooth-saving potential of endodontics; which is the care and treatment of the soft tissues within and around the teeth. Continue reading

Lack of routine dental care under Medicare continues to rankle

Photo: Spazzy Max via Flickr

About 60 million Americans depend upon Medicare for their health care coverage. But the national health insurance program for retired and disabled people has never covered routine dental services. The gap represents a significant barrier to necessary care for a growing segment of the country’s population, experts say.

An estimated 65% of beneficiaries – nearly 37 million people on Medicare — are dentally-uninsured, according to an issue brief from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation published this spring. Continue reading

Reporter drew on life experience to report on inadequate prison dental care

Photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Much remains unknown about the oral health status of more than two million incarcerated Americans, but research suggests that many dental needs go unmet behind bars.

Reporting on the problem can be challenging. But in a recent project we wrote about, Keri Blakinger, who covers breaking news, prisons and the death penalty for the Houston Chronicle, found a way to document the desperate wait for dentures in Texas state prisons. Continue reading

Investigations put focus on infection control in dental offices

Photo: John Ong via Flickr

Two high-profile safety breaches have highlighted the importance of close adherence to infection control protocols in dental clinics and offices.

In both recent cases, patients have been advised to undergo testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C due to possible exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

In Seattle and nearby Vashon Island, news broke in early April that nearly 1,300 students face infection risks because equipment used in school clinics was improperly sterilized. Ten school-based dental clinics operated by Neighborcare, a local health center have been impacted by the safety breach. Continue reading

Freelancers, editors explore ethics, integrity and transparency

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJEditor Brendan Maher stressed that writers should always be transparent about potential conflicts of interest.

While their hearts and training may lie with traditional objective journalism, many freelancers take on additional writing assignments in order to make ends meet. But when do these non-journalistic jobs present real or potential conflicts of interest with journalism?  How should writers and their editors address the ethical questions that may arise? In an evolving media landscape, how do freelance journalists maintain objectivity – and integrity – while paying the bills? Continue reading