TEETH: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America (Mary Otto)

teeth mary otto


To understand the significance of the work of Ready Set Smile, please consider reading the compelling book, TEETH, written by the Washington Post reporter Mary Otto. The book engagingly lays out the state of inequality in our oral health care system, and the painful reality that so many poor Americans cannot access dental services.

In 2007, Mary Otto was inspired to write this book after reporting on the death of a 12 year old boy, Deamonte Driver. As his mother desperately sought the care of a dentist, Deamonte’s infected tooth worsened. By the time care was accessed, it was too late. Deamonte was hospitalized with a brain abscess. He laid in a coma for weeks before passing away. Otto spent the next 10 years researching the how and why the oral health delivery system reached this tragic state of affairs.

Oral disease is an epidemic that is 100% preventable with good diet, good home care, AND access to preventive services such as sealants and fluoride varnish. Only a third of dentists in our country are willing to serve children on Medicaid. Reimbursement does not cover the cost of service. But it’s not that simple. Multiple barriers are entrenched into our society and history related to physiology, policy, and politics.

The book is skillfully researched and written. As a dentist, it has helped me to reflect on my own career and reinforce my passion to advance Ready Set Smile. I see the story of Ready Set Smile written in the pages of this book. Ready Set Smile gives the most impoverished children and families in Minneapolis the opportunity to access services in schools and educates on raising children to be free of dental decay.


Mary Otto will be speaking at the Delta Dental of Minnesota Symposium

November 3, 2017 -8:00 am – 1 pm

Radisson Blu Mall of America

2100 Killebrew Dr.

Bloomington, MN

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