Subcouncil on Dentists Concerned for Dentists helps those grappling with addiction, colleague to colleague

The ODA’s Subcouncil on Dentists Concerned for Dentists (DCD) is here to help Ohio dentists grappling with chemical dependency and alcoholism addictions.

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, the dentist need not self-report.

A list of board-approved treatment facilities can be found on the Ohio State Dental Board’s website at

Throughout our lives, many of us try to give a helping hand to someone in need. It is with this kind of thinking that 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 on Membership Services, DCD is charged with acting as a guide for a dentist battling a drug or alcohol problem. Dentists Concerned for Dentists will help an impaired dentist accept that there is a problem and work with them to get into a state Dental Board-approved treatment facility for help.

We owe a large debt of gratitude to Dr. Don Bowermaster, who served for many years as the DCD coordinator. As coordinator, he handled interventions, arranged for treatment, aftercare, post-treatment monitoring and served as a liaison to the Ohio State Dental Board. He was followed by the Ohio Physicians Health Program (OPHP), which served as our DCD coordinator by contract, and provided the same services. More recently we have worked with OPHP on a non-contract basis to assist with monitoring and other processes. As the current chairman of DCD, I serve as a liaison to the Ohio State Dental Board.

So what happens when a dentist colleague of ours becomes impaired as a result of 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. Those callers are directed to me. I listen. There are times I will contact a colleague at OPHP for some advice.

After gathering as much information as possible, I or a member of DCD will try to make contact with the dentist and express concern. 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 as dependent on alcohol or drugs, treatment for this medical condition (disease) is commenced at the approved treatment center. After an appropriate length of inpatient treatment, a minimum of 28 days, the dentist will be released from inpatient treatment with an aftercare plan 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 percent.

Those statistics, and continued advocacy by the Ohio Dental Association, continue to be the foundation of the Ohio State Dental Board’s support of the “first bite” rule. All parties agree that the profession is best served by healthy, informed and talented providers. The ODA’s Subcouncil on DCD works, colleague to colleague, to help ensure that continues to happen.

Anyone who has questions or concerns may call the ODA at (614) 486-2700 or Dr. Mark Wenzel at (937) 434 1151(office) or (937) 609 8025(cell). All information will be held in strict confidence.