Tip Sheets

Tips on covering dental health care and access to care

chair Dentist chair in an alley in McAllen, Texas. Photo by indigotimbre via Flickr

Just as with other aspects of health care, children, older adults, and people who live in rural areas are affected by economic, structural, geographic and cultural factors that limit access to dental health care. A report this week from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council looks at the consequences of inadequate access to oral health care and recommends ways to improve access.

AHCJ has a number of resources, including taped panel discussions, tip sheets, articles and contest questionnaires on reporting on dental health:

Panel discussions and presentations

At the 2010 Rural Health Journalism Workshop, Emily Shortridge of the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, and Jason Wesco, of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, discussed oral health in rural populations. Their presentations and video of the panel is available.

  • Emily Shortridge, Ph.D., Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis [PDF of presentation]
  • Jason Wesco, chief operating officer, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas [PDF of presentation]

A panel at the 2008 Rural Health Journalism Workshop included a discussion of oral health in rural America, featuring, Dan Brody, a dentist in Fort Gay, W.V. His presentation is available. The panel moderator, Eric Eyre, a health reporter at The Charleston (W.V.) Gazette, wrote an award-winning series about dental health care, "State of Decay." For more information, see his tip sheet, an article about how he reported the project and the contest questionnaire about how he reported the series. AHCJ members can listen to the panel discussion:

 Introduction (MP3)
Brody discusses oral health (MP3)
Eyre and Brody talk about Eyre's series (MP3)
Q&A (MP3)

Contest entries

Several entries in the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism have examined oral health care:

Dentist chair at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx.
In this chair at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Debra Sperling, D.M.D., does cleanings, fillings, preventive care and applies fluoride sealants to prevent future damage.

Additional resources

In a CJR.org column, AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman searches for new approaches to covering the fact that many working class Americans lack access to reliable dental care, a situation that hasn't improved in years. She recommends that, in a time when reform money is being pumped into prevention across the board, reports ask why preventive dental care is being given short shrift. Likewise, she writes, reporters should be looking to see where money goes once it filters down to community health care clinics, especially those clinics which provide dental services. Finally, she recommends that reporters put together consumer guides pointing consumers to free or discounted dental care available in their community.

The last line of dental defense: AHCJ board member Maryn McKenna went on HealthRadio to discuss the role emergency physicians are playing as the country's dental safety net, the last resort for patients with dental issues.

Visit to the Bronx provides insight into school-based health programs, from the 2008 Urban Health Journalism Workshop.