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

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

Dental fear a contributing factor to poor oral health

Photo: Herry Lawford via Flickr

One in 10 American adults has avoided a needed dental visit due to fear, according to federal data.

Some patients panic at the thought of lying prone in the dental chair. Others dread opening the intimate territory of the mouth for inspection and judgment. The one-way conversations, the sharp instruments, the smells and sounds of the dental office can all stir so much anxiety that people delay timely care. Continue reading

Reporter uncovers ‘painful mistakes’ in one state’s handling of dentist errors

Arthur Kane

Arthur Kane

Over five months, Arthur Kane, an investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, immersed himself in the workings of the Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners.

Kane combed through state audits and internal documents and delved into the stories of patients who were left suffering by dentists who were allowed to keep practicing. He weighed troubling allegations raised by a local dental society. In October, he emerged with a six-part series, “Painful Mistakes.” Continue reading

Study documents disparities that contribute to late diagnosis of oral cancer


Photo: Stephanie Young Merzel via Flickr

Research has long shown that Americans from minority groups and those with a lower socioeconomic status are less likely to get routine dental visits than patients who are white and more affluent. A new study finds that even when minorities or those who are poorer and less educated do receive oral health services, they are less likely to receive oral cancer (OC)screenings that could lead an early diagnosis. Continue reading