Dentists Concerned for Dentists helps those with alcohol, substance abuse problems

Throughout our lives, many of us try to give a helping hand to someone in need.  It is with this kind of thinking that the Subcouncil on Dentists Concerned for Dentists (DCD) was formed to help Ohio dentists with alcohol or substance abuse problems.

I have spoken with many dentists who were unaware of DCD or were unfamiliar with its function.  As a subcouncil of the Council of Membership, DCD is charged with acting as the facilitator for a dentist with a drug or alcohol problem.  Dentists Concerned for Dentists will help an impaired dentist get into a state board approved treatment facility.

So what happens when a dentist colleague of ours becomes impaired from alcohol or substance abuse before the Ohio State Dental Board becomes involved?

Typically a concerned party, be it an office manager, colleague or spouse, makes a phone call to the ODA office in Columbus.  Many times these callers are directed to me.  I listen and try to make an initial assessment.  There are times I will contact a colleague at the Ohio Physicians Health Program (OPHP) for some advice.  After gathering as much information as possible, I or another member of DCD will try to make contact with the dentist and express the concerns that were shared with us.  If it is determined that an intervention is in order, we will make contact with professionals with those special skills to conduct an intervention.

The desired outcome of a contact or intervention is to convince the impaired dentist to be evaluated at an Ohio State Dental Board approved treatment facility.

If the dentist is assessed an alcoholic or chemically dependent, treatment for this medical condition (disease) is commenced at this treatment center.  After an appropriate length of treatment, a minimum of 30 days inpatient, the dentist will be released from inpatient treatment and encouraged to enter into a follow up monitoring agreement with an appropriate monitoring service such as OPHP.

Part of the monitoring agreement will include an aftercare program, regular attendance to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, weekly Caduceus meetings (AA/NA for health care providers), working with a sponsor, and random weekly urine alcohol/drug screens for five years.  After a few years the urine screens are usually reduced to bi-weekly. Statistics from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) show that a person who is monitored in such a manner for five years has a relapse rate of less than 10%.

If you carefully read the questions on your dental license renewal application, you will see something that I think is quite remarkable.  If a dentist has completed treatment at an Ohio State Dental Board approved treatment facility, he or she may answer NO to the question concerning alcoholism or chemical dependency. 

This is sometimes referred to as the “first bite” rule.  Essentially what the Ohio State Dental Board is saying is that if an Ohio dentist is successfully receiving treatment for his or her disease at an approved treatment center, they need not self-report.  A list of board-approved treatment facilities and aftercare programs can be found on the Ohio State Dental Board’s website at www.dental.ohio.gov/treatment.pdf and www.dental.ohio.gov/aftercare.pdf.

The Subcouncil on Dentists Concerned for Dentists is here to help Ohio dentists grappling with chemical dependency and alcoholism addictions.

Anyone who would like to utilize the services of Dentists Concerned for Dentists or who has questions or concerns may call the ODA at (614) 486-2700 or Dr. Mark Wenzel (937) 609-8025 (cell).  All information will be held in strict confidence.