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

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

Children’s health advocates anxious that CHIP funding will slip through the cracks

Photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Amid the ongoing debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, another landmark federal health care program faces an uncertain future.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides medical and dental coverage to nearly nine million children of the working poor, marked its 20th anniversary in August. But funding for CHIP runs out on Sept. 30, and unless a divided and distracted Congress takes action to renew it, state CHIP programs could start running out of money later this year, analysts warn. Continue reading

Newspaper’s economic health series explores role of oral health

Photo: David Joyce via Flickr

The oral health of a state or community can serve as an interesting lens for examining economic health. That is the message that a series from newspapers in the Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. chain recently brought to its readers in Oklahoma.

In its Overextended Oklahomans project, reporters have been exploring many aspects of the everyday struggles many state residents face in meeting basic needs. Continue reading

What we can learn from the failed effort to pass ‘Caleb’s Law’ in California

Laurel Rosenhall

As part of her beat covering politics for the nonprofit media organization CALmatters, Laurel Rosenhall has documented the long battle of two bereaved parents working to convince California lawmakers to tighten state law as it relates to dental anesthesia.

After their son, Caleb, died two years ago, Tim and Eliza Sears launched an initiative to require that two highly trained professionals – a dentist or oral surgeon and an anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist or similar specialist – be present when providing dental care to children under anesthesia. They say such a requirement might have saved their child. The couple has faced significant resistance in their quest, as Rosenhall reported in her July 11 piece, “Dental Lobby Wins Again: Grieving Parents Shelve Caleb’s Law Rather Than Dilute It.” Continue reading

Mass. may be moving closer to use of dental therapists to hold down Medicaid costs

Photo: Spazzy Max via Flickr

Earlier this summer, Gov. Charlie Baker lent his support to a long-running effort to bring a new class of dental providers to Massachusetts.

The governor included language that added dental therapists in a package of measures aimed at containing the rising costs of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. Continue reading