Then, too, reporters might consider a comprehensive consumer guide showing where people can get free or reduced-fee dental services in their communities. This is a real service that news outlets could provide. In California, Varney says, a lot of seniors are walking around with broken dentures because Medicaid doesn’t pay for them. The longer we talked, it became clear that there are lots of important stories here for enterprising reporters. While dental care might not be the world’s sexiest story, it’s an important one, and it needs to be told.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.