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.

A look into dentists under pressure to overtreat by their chains

DentalChainTroubles

Photo: Anthony via Flickr

A reporting team’s in-depth investigation into a growing dental chain offers a troubling chronicle of dentists under pressure to meet revenue targets and patient allegations of overtreatment.

Reporters from USA Today and Newsy, the investigative unit owned by E. W. Scripps Company, spent more than a year examining the inner workings of North American Dental Group. The Pittsburg-based chain represents “a new trend of dental offices bought by private-equity investors and turned into revenue-generating machines,” their project explained. Continue reading

Reporter explores impact of medical credit cards on dental debt

Manuela-Tobias

Manuela Tobias

Dental patients in need of costly procedures may turn to medical credit cards to pay for the services. But these cards, which often include deferred-interest provisions, can pose risks.

If consumers do not fully understand the terms or fall behind on payments, they can end up facing inflated bills and crippling dental debts, as Fresno Bee reporter Manuela Tobias explained in a recent investigative piece. Continue reading

Studies examine dental ailments as a driver of prescription abuse

Spurred by concerns about opioid addiction and antibiotic overuse, experts have urged clinicians across health care disciplines to take a hard look at their prescribing habits. Dentists, who are numbered among the nation’s leading prescribers of opioids and antibiotics, have been included in these warnings.

Dentists were responsible for writing more than 11 million opioid prescriptions one recent year, yet experts have cautioned that addiction often begins with such routine prescriptions. Continue reading

Officials ramp up warnings to delay most dental procedures

Photo: Marco Verch via Flickr

In carefully worded directives intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 and conserve protective equipment, government health officials are urging U.S. dental clinics to postpone most procedures.

Without personal protective equipment (PPE), even routine oral health services can easily expose workers and patients to transmission of a variety disease. Providers and patients are face-to-face; instruments used in the procedures generate droplets containing water, saliva, blood and microorganisms, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes in new infection control guidelines for providing dental care during the COVID-19 emergency. But patients who have or may have COVID-19 present additional risks, according to the agency. Continue reading

Many dental procedures considered ‘non-essential’ during COVID-19 crisis

Photo: Naval Surface Warriors via Flickr

Dental providers across the U.S. are being urged to limit most services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on March 18 recommended that clinicians and hospitals delay non-essential dental, medical and surgical procedures not only to reduce the spread of disease but also to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers responding to the virus outbreak. Continue reading

Abrupt end to Oregon legislative session leaves dental therapist bill in the lurch

Oregon considers expanding use of mid-level dental providers

Photo: TheKarenD via Flickr

In Oregon, oral health and tribal advocates have pledged that they will continue to fight for legislation that would permanently authorize dental therapists to work throughout the state.

SB 1549, sponsored by Oregon state Sen. Laurie Monnes-Anderson (D-Gresham), a retired public health nurse, failed to move out of the state Senate Committee on Health Care during this year’s short and tumultuous legislative session. The session came to a sudden close March 5 with majority Democrats and minority Republicans deadlocked over a climate change measure. Continue reading