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 mary@healthjournalism.org.

When covering the opioid epidemic, don’t forget the dental angle

Photo: ^Thais^ via Flickr

President Donald Trump’s decision to declare opioid addiction a national emergency could be at least a step toward addressing the complex crisis blamed for claiming more than 33,000 lives in 2015.

The emergency declaration potentially could be used to expedite state responses, dispatch U.S. Public Health Service personnel to hard-hit communities and step up requirements for prescriber education, according to Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, who was interviewed for a Washington Post story. Continue reading

Efforts pick up steam to expand Medicaid dental benefits for older adults

Photo: Garry Knight via Flickr

In a recent story for the Baltimore Sun, reporter Andrea K. McDaniels explored a dilemma getting increasing attention these days – the shortage of affordable and accessible oral health services for the nation’s seniors.

“Jocelyn Chapman’s 86-year-old mother needed major dental work, and her family was trying to figure out how to pay for it,” the story began. Continue reading

Data suggests mixed progress in reducing tooth decay rates among young

Photo: Joseph Bartmann via Flickr

Tooth decay remains the most prevalent chronic health problem of children in the United States. Since the late 1980s, roughly one in four U.S. children have had tooth decay, a rate that has remained relatively stable over the decades, according to a new study based on extensive federal data.

While the study reveals recent progress in reducing and treating disease among preschool children, the prevalence of decay in the permanent teeth of older children and adolescents has remained static. Continue reading

‘Invisible’ inmates face barriers to getting dental care

Photo: Paul Robinson via Flickr

The U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. A 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Estelle V. Gamble, declares that prisoners must be protected from “deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs.”

But how does oral health care fit into this picture? Continue reading

Minn. reporter shares insights on covering the dental therapist debate

Stephanie Dickrell

The debate over dental therapists continues to roil state houses across the country.

Many organized dental groups contend the technically trained providers lack the skills to perform irreversible procedures such as drilling teeth. Meanwhile, public health and grassroots supporters of a wider use of dental therapists contend that this is a good way to get cost-effective, badly needed care to poor, underserved and rural communities.

Dental therapists have been providing care in Alaskan tribal areas for more than a decade. In 2009, Minnesota became the first state to adopt the model for use statewide. Continue reading