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

Unlikely coalition expands use of dental therapists in Arizona

Photo: Liz West via Flickr

A bill recently signed into law by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey opens the way for dental therapists to begin providing services in tribal health centers, safety net clinics and other public health settings across the state.

Diverse supporters of the change ranged from health advocacy groups and tribal organizations to the libertarian Goldwater Institute, which issued the report, “The Reform That Can Increase Dental Access and Affordability in Arizona.” Continue reading

Caution required when discussing associations between oral and overall health

The mouth is connected to the body.

Yet much remains unknown about the subtle workings of that connection.

Research continues to identify associations between oral and systemic conditions. But it is too soon to draw conclusions about possible causal relationships between maladies such as gum disease and cancer, warn the authors of a June guest editorial in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Continue reading

Study of decade of data backs argument for community water fluoridation

Photo: Jonathan Cohen via Flickr

Children living in counties with fluoridated water have significantly less tooth decay than those living in counties that lack water fluoridation programs, according to a newly published large-scale study.

Reduced decay rates were most pronounced in the primary teeth of children living in fluoridated counties. Yet community water fluoridation (CWF) also was credited with conferring a meaningful level of protection to the permanent teeth of children and adolescents. Continue reading

Virginia Beach dentist helps reveal disease cluster among colleagues

Photo: Damien Walmsley via Flickr

In a recent piece for the Virginian-Pilot, reporter Elizabeth Simpson told the story of a local dentist whose hunch about his rare illness helped reveal a troubling disease cluster among fellow dental professionals.

It was four years ago that Virginia Beach dentist Robert Pellerin was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a mysterious and incurable ailment that scars and hardens the tissues of the lungs. Continue reading

New state-by-state report card rates oral health among seniors

Photo: Rob! via Flickr

Getting dental care to America’s elders is a big challenge.

Medicare has never covered routine dental benefits. Medicaid dental benefits for poor adults (including more than 7 million seniors) are scant in many states.

Out-of-pocket costs and problems with mobility can complicate the search for care. As a result, many seniors delay dental visits. Disease progresses. Tooth loss is a grim indicator of the problem. One-third of older Americans have lost six or more teeth, according to a new report by the nonprofit Oral Health America (OHA), based in Chicago. Continue reading