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

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

Oregon considers expanding use of mid-level dental providers

Oregon considers expanding use of mid-level dental providers

Photo: TheKarenD via Flickr

Dental therapists began serving tribal communities in Oregon under a pilot program in 2016. Late last year, the state’s health authority approved another pilot, based at Pacific University, that is soon set to begin educating a small cohort of new therapists.

Now a state senator is backing legislation that would allow the mid-level dental providers, often compared to physician’s assistants, to work throughout the state. Continue reading

Increased scrutiny of health care credit cards continues

Photo: OTA Photos via Flickr

Dental patients can face tough choices when figuring out how to pay for costly services not covered by insurance. In moments of need or pain, they may be offered the option of applying for a medical credit card — right in the dental office.

The credit cards ensure immediate payment to providers, so dentists like them. But patients are not always clear on the terms, which often include deferred-interest provisions. If cardholders misunderstand what they have signed up for and falls behind on payments, they can end up facing inflated bills and crippling debt. Continue reading

Data analysis yields state-by-state dental rankings

health care provider working on teeth

Photo by ktpupp via Flickr.

Overall, across America, about 15% of children and one-third of adults have gone longer than a year without a dental visit, federal data show.

But rates of children and adults getting oral health services, and factors that can represent barriers to access – including provider shortages and the cost of care – vary from state to state.

Continue reading