Tag Archives: dental health

Consumer site taps data to estimate which states have healthiest teeth and gums

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.

Photo: Jamie Henderson via Flickr

A state’s oral health status represents an interesting indicator of the overall health and economic well-being of its people. On a personal and population level, oral health is not achieved in a vacuum.

Many factors play a role in ensuring the good oral health, from the availability and cost of professional dental services to access to nutritious food and optimally fluoridated water. Shortages of dental providers, high rates of smoking and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can take a toll. So, can the lack public or private dental benefits, water fluoridation and school sealant programs. Continue reading

Check out this oral health reporting advice from an ‘investigative nutritionist’

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.

Photo: Adam Rose via Flickr

Photo: Adam Rose via Flickr

Registered dietician, syndicated radio host and self-described “investigative nutritionist” Melinda Hemmelgarn has given a lot of thought lately to dental care and oral health.  A recent episode of her public radio show, Food Sleuth, features an interview with Jane Grover, a dentist and director of the American Dental Association’s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.

In the interview, Hemmelgarn and Grover also discussed useful tips for maintaining oral health including good brushing habits and the foods that are more harmful to teeth. Continue reading

Sociologist offers insights on health navigators, finding wider lessons in personal stories

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.

Elizabeth Piatt

Elizabeth Piatt

Trying to help her sister Veronika, who is disabled, with a dental emergency, Elizabeth Piatt found herself negotiating a labyrinth of personal feelings and Medicaid paperwork. The job of getting Veronika the care she needed was fraught with challenges. Piatt emerged from the experience with new insights into the Medicaid system that serves America’s poor, and a new sense of compassion for the patients who struggle within that system.

Piatt, an assistant professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, also came out of the experience convinced of  the need for a better network of health navigators to help Medicaid patients find care and services.

Piatt shared the story of her journey in a  piece entitled  “Navigating Veronika: How Access, Knowledge and Attitudes Shaped My Sister’s Care” that was featured in February’s Health Affairs.

She shares further insights, as well as some tips on exploring a personal story for its wider lessons, in this AHCJ Q&A.

Reporter shares experience covering Medicaid’s orthodontic benefits

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.

Sheila Hagar

Sheila Hagar

After a hint from her own dentist, Sheila Hagar started looking into concerns about the rising numbers of Medicaid kids getting braces in Washington. Hagar, who is medical and social services reporter for the Union-Bulletin, in Walla Walla, sought sources and found statistics that made her jaw drop.

“We should be taking care of people who really have a need,” a frustrated Walla Walla orthodontist, Thomas Utt, D.D.S., told her. “While his office – Walla Walla Orthodontics – is authorized to treat Medicaid-eligible children with braces,” Hagar wrote, “Utt grits his teeth at what he sees as misuse of funds and a lack of clarity over just what ‘medically necessary’ means when it comes to correcting kids’ teeth.”

Here, Hagar tells us more about how she tackled the reporting that led to her July 5 package “State Foots Skyrocketing $27 Million Bill for Braces” and what she is learning about orthodontic benefits under Medicaid. She also shares some wisdom on what to do when no one is returning your calls on an uncomfortable subject. Read how she did her reporting.

Free clinics mark Children’s Dental Health Month

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.

Image by ktpupp via flickr.

Image by ktpupp via flickr.

Open wide! A free one-day dental clinic for low-income children may be coming to a school or community center near you.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity for oral health professionals and advocates to raise awareness about the importance of getting care to kids, particularly those who might otherwise go without.

On Friday, Feb. 7, the American Dental Association is officially kicking off its 12th annual Give Kids a Smile Day program with free care for kids at the Howard University College of Dentistry here in Washington, D.C.

Similar events are being planned throughout the country. To find out what is going on in own area, check with your local or state dental society.

Give Kids a Smile clinics are typically organized differently than the big free Mission of Mercy events that have crowds of adults lining up spontaneously at fairgrounds and gymnasiums. The 175 children expected at the Howard University dental college were screened in December by volunteer dentists who visited local elementary schools. The kids will be getting their needed follow-up treatments on Give Kids a Smile Day. Continue reading

Debate over fluoridation rages on: What reporters need to know

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.

Fluoride opposition sign in Portland, Ore.

Photo by Neal Jennings.

“Portland and its aversion to fluoride reflects Oregon’s unusual politics”

That was the headline that ran over Oregonian writer Jeff Mapes’ May 22 election story.

“In 2011, the board of the Santa Clara Valley [Calif.] Water District voted to begin fluoridating water for about 850,000 customers in and around San Jose. Anti-fluoride activists grumbled but realized they didn’t have the resources to take their fight to the public.

“That’s sure not what happened in Portland, which once again showed that this far northwest corner of the country is willing to go where other parts of the country rarely tread.

“Activists packed the City Council chambers to protest the decision to go ahead with fluoridation and then collected more than 40,000 signatures in a month to place the issue on the ballot. And then, putting together a campaign organization on the fly, they won in a walk – despite being outspent three to one.

“Whether we’re talking about how to fight tooth decay or insisting that someone else pump our gas, Oregonians’ fierce independence and easy access to a Wild West system of direct democracy creates a different civic culture here.”

In the midst of just one of the fluoride debates brewing around the country last fall, Portland’s city council voted 5-0 to approve the fluoridation of the city’s water supply.

Public health advocates cheered. But fluoride opponents swore they would fight on. And they prevailed big time. Continue reading