A clear message on decreasing the sugar

May 1, 2011
In 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a statement on dietary sugar intake and its role in obesity...

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH
[email protected]

This month's IneedCE.com highlighted course is "Dentinal Hypersensitivity: A Review." Dentinal hypersensitivity is characterized by short, sharp pain in response to stimuli. It is seen in adults ages 20 to 40 and is caused by a variety of etiological factors. The goal of this course is to provide information on the etiology and anatomical factors involved in dentinal hypersensitivity, review prevalence and common sites, and discuss home care and in-office treatments available to decrease and assist the patient in dealing with hypersensitivity. For readers of RDH magazine, a discount code, DREVMAY11, can be used to receive a 25% discount through May 31, 2011.

In 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a statement on dietary sugar intake and its role in obesity and its implications for cardiovascular diseases. They recommended that people slash sugar intake from their diets. Dental professionals are at the forefront of this process because they can educate patients about the improvements they will see in oral and systemic health if they follow the AHA recommendations.

Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH, has developed a program called "America's Sweet Tooth Obsession and Its Impact on Oral and Systemic Health." It informs dental teams about how they can educate patients on ways to adhere to the guidelines, and the adverse effects of not following the guidelines.

Karen designed the program from her own need to understand the role sugar plays in systemic health. A few years ago her husband was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, and sugar increases his already high risk for diabetes. At about the same time, Karen's daughter was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, and like other irritable bowel disorders, sugar consumption makes the condition worse. Additionally, in clinical practice Karen noticed an increase in patients presenting with root caries and demineralization caused by frequent sugar intake.

She decided the time was right for a program about the effects of sugar. Karen also delivers programs on "Creating the Ultimate Doctor-Patient Hygiene Exam," "Think Outside the Mouth – Treatment Planning for Nonsurgical Periodontal Therapy," and "Getting from Bugs and Drugs to Hugs and Health."

The "Ultimate Doctor" discusses key factors to prepare patients for periodontal treatment prior to symptoms. "Think Outside the Mouth" is for entire dental teams to understand risk factors for systemic diseases while treating periodontal diseases. "Getting from Bugs" focuses on treating caries and periodontal disease by maximizing therapeutic products and actively coaching patients to own their health.

The goal of "America's Sweet Tooth Obsession" is to equip dental professionals with the knowledge to assist patients in making healthy food and drink choices to protect their systemic and oral health. She discusses how teams can offer services and products aimed at remineralizing tooth structures that have already started the caries process.

Karen has presented the program to live audiences as a three-hour presentation and as a one-hour webinar during the PennWell Virtual Trade Show in 2010. She uses PowerPoint with audience discussion and supplemental handouts with suggestions for implementing the theories into everyday practice. The question and answer session during the virtual trade show was very lively, with many participants asking thought-provoking questions that may not have been asked in a live program.

Karen became interested in presenting continuing education programs at the beginning of her dental hygiene career when she attended the American Academy of Periodontology meeting in Dallas. She thought she would enjoy doing presentations, and she got her chance when she joined the practice of Dr. Tom McDougal in 1985. Dr. McDougal asked Karen to speak to a breakout session of dental hygienists attending his own CE program on prescheduling the dental hygiene appointment. At the time, this was something that few offices offered patients, and from there Karen's speaking opportunities grew.

In 1991, the JP Institute provided training in the practice where Karen worked, and their philosophy merged with her own. A short time later she joined the company as a part-time trainer; then in 1999 she began her own CE company called "Cutting Edge Concepts." She currently provides training part-time with the JP Institute, practices clinical hygiene one day a week, and devotes the majority of her time to her company.

In 2008 her husband was diagnosed with islet cell pancreatic cancer, which is extremely rare. Fortunately, it is a slow-growing cancer with various options for treatment and he has responded very well. Anyone who has been affected by cancer knows that it can bring extreme clarity to one's life. Today Karen enjoys spending time with her husband, family, and friends, sharing her faith, and helping those in need.

Karen is a member of ADHA and thanks her friend and mentor, Kathy Trilli, for that guidance. Kathy was her instructor who instilled a high value in Karen to support her professional organization. Karen would like to see those in academia lead by example and instill a lifelong commitment to the profession in the students they influence.

If she were not a hygienist, Karen would be a professional mountain climber. She lives vicariously through those who have climbed the tallest peaks in the world. She loves reading their stories and watching their journeys, and imagines the victory they must feel when they overcome tremendous odds. As a dynamic and entertaining speaker, Karen inspires those who think that overcoming sugar is a tremendous hurdle, but she tells them it is one that can be achieved.

For more information on Karen and her programs, contact [email protected].

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH, is a fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and a member of ADHA and other professional associations. Ann-Marie presents continuing-education programs for hygienists and dental team members and has written numerous articles on a variety of topics. She can be reached at [email protected].

More RDH Articles
Past RDH Issues