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

Reporter explores how state’s economic health affects its oral health

The Oklahoma newspapers in the Community Newspaper Holding Inc. (CNHI) chain offered readers a series that examines the everyday challenges that many state residents face in meeting basic needs.

For stories in the weekly Overextended Oklahomans series, journalists from participating newspapers have looked at the burdens exacted by payday lending, childhood hunger and the shortage of neonatal care. In one recent installment, reporting team member Caleb Slinkard offered a detailed exploration of how a scarcity of dental care is impacting poor and rural Oklahomans. Continue reading

California looks to improve oral care access for its youngest residents

Photo: Yoshihide Nomura via Flickr

To help ensure a lifetime of better oral health, experts recommend that babies receive their first dental exam no later than their first birthday.

Such visits serve as an opportunity to provide timely preventive care to small children – and guidance to parents that can help keep their children’s teeth clean and disease-free. Continue reading

Congressional inaction leaves states squeezed on CHIP funding

With Congress failing to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to extend federal funding, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) now is facing an uncertain future.

Established 20 years ago, CHIP provides medical and dental coverage to nine million children from lower-income families whose incomes are slightly too high to qualify for Medicaid. Continue reading

Efforts advance in Michigan to allow dental therapists

A Michigan legislator has renewed efforts to expand the state’s dental workforce to include dental therapists as a means to get more care to underserved communities.

A bill, introduced in September by Republican state Senator Mike Shirkey, would allow dental therapists to begin working in Michigan.

The technically-trained workers, sometimes compared to nurse practitioners, would provide basic preventive and restorative care such as filling decayed teeth as part of dentist-headed teams. Continue reading

Poll points to dental insecurity among many middle-aged Americans

Photo: Kevin Harber via Flickr

One in three Americans aged 50 to 64 are ashamed about the state of their teeth, and an even larger percentage (38 percent) say dental conditions have caused pain, difficulties with eating, missed work or interfered with their lives in other ways within the past two years.

The findings are part of a new report from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, a project led by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and sponsored by the university’s health system and AARP. Continue reading