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 follows dental hygienists’ battle to treat vulnerable patients

Ana B. Ibarra

Sacramento-based California Healthline reporter Ana B. Ibarra has been following a battle being waged by independent practice dental hygienists who contend that actions by the state of California are forcing them to give up their most vulnerable patients, poor and frail people covered by Denti-Cal, the state’s Medicaid dental program.

In one story late last year, Ibarra captured the scene at a Rancho Cucamonga residential care facility where a visiting dental hygienist Gita Aminloo was caring for one of those patients, Devon Rising, who is blind and disabled. Continue reading

Editors at #AHCJ18 share tips on composing a winning pitch

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

PHOENIX – Successfully selling story ideas requires energy, skill and plenty of patience. At Health Journalism 2018 in Phoenix on Thursday, a panel of seasoned magazine editors offered tips to freelancers on “Crafting the Perfect Pitch.”

“Pitching is an art, not a science,” observed Jennifer Bleyer, who until recently was an editor at Psychology Today. Still, some general rules apply, including, “Be brief.” Continue reading

NY program highlights challenge of providing dental care to patients with disabilities

Photo: Phil King via Flickr

Reporter Richard Liebson recently recounted the story of an aging, 35-foot Winnebago that trundles through New York’s Hudson Valley to deliver dental care to intellectually disabled children and adults served by 15 agencies in the region.

Before the dental van started making its rounds, “we were in trouble,” said John Porcella, who heads one of those agencies. Finding care and scheduling dental appointments for the 140 disabled people in his program was a major ordeal, Porcella explained. Getting one single person to the dentist could tie up a staffer for an entire day. Continue reading

New study helps document role of oral health in overall health of Hispanics

Photo: Ann Fisher via Flickr

More than half of U.S. Hispanic adults suffer from dental pain, have difficulty eating or report other oral problems that impact their quality of life, according to new findings gleaned from a major federal research project.

The conclusions are just the latest from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) a multi-center, population-based project. Continue reading

Rule changes affect dental care for Californians with disabilities

Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHNDental hygienist Gita Aminloo (left) and assistant Shirin Tavakolinia clean Devon Rising’s teeth. Rising, 42, who is mentally disabled and blind, can’t easily get to a dentist’s office, so Aminloo performs the dental cleaning at his residential home.

In stories for California Healthline, Ana B. Ibarra has been following a battle being waged by a cadre of independent practice dental hygienists who claim that state actions are forcing them to give up their most vulnerable patients.

At a residential care facility in Rancho Cucamonga last year, Ibarra described one of those hygienists at work.

Gita Aminloo was singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” the classic children’s song, to calm 42-year-old Devon Rising, who is blind and mentally disabled, so she could finish cleaning his teeth.

Continue reading