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

Find out what an oral health report card says about your state

Photo: Kate Sumbler via Flickr

Oral health can offer useful insights into a state’s livability.

That is a key message contained in WalletHub’s new report card: 2019’s States With the Best & Worst Dental Health.

This is the third year that the personal finance website has delved into dental care, crunching data from federal and nonprofit sources to come up with its rankings. Continue reading

Forensic odontologist faces grim task of identifying wildfire victims

In the wake of California’s latest spate of devastating wildfires, teams of forensic specialists have faced the grim task of assigning names to victims whose remains are brought to the morgue in Sacramento from the site of the Camp Fire in Butte County.

Sometimes, the specialists have mere fragments of the dead to work with. And sometimes those fragments are teeth, or bits of dental crowns or fillings. Continue reading

Oropharyngeal cancer a growing result of HPV’s spread

Photo: AJ Cann via Flickr

With about 14 million new infections a year, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most prevalent sexually-transmitted virus in the United States.

HPV has long been linked to cervical cancer. Certain strains of the virus cause an estimated 12,000 cases of cervical cancer annually among women in the U.S. Now, rising rates of HPV-linked mouth and throat cancers – known as oropharyngeal cancers – are receiving increased attention, as are efforts to get Americans up to age 45 vaccinated to reduce the spread of HPV-related diseases. Continue reading

Free dental care day provides opportunity for broader examination of access to care

Photo: Rob Allen via Flickr

In recent coverage of a free dental care day for low-income Mainers, Portland Press Herald reporter Joe Lawlor explored some of the challenges that have shaped oral health access in the state.

As he noted in his piece, new Democratic governor Janet Mills is preparing to oversee an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.

Continue reading

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