Substance abuse challenges

Sept. 11, 2013
Many people are faced with the challenges of dealing with a family member or friend struggling with addiction.

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

Many people are faced with the challenges of dealing with a family member or friend struggling with addiction. From alcohol to drugs to other addictive and destructive substances, these challenges can erode at the fabric of one's existence.

Edie Shuman-Gibson, BSDH, MSc, FADIA, faced the difficulty of living with an alcoholic husband. She has found the strength and determination to discuss these issues in a program titled "Generation Rx: Uppers, Downers, & All Arounders." With today's culture bombarded with unlimited access to mind-altering and highly addictive drugs, many have embraced this counterculture as part of their everyday life. Illicit drug use among 12- to 26-year-olds has reached epidemic proportions. The devastating impact of these debilitating and destructive behaviors affects both whole-body wellness and oral health.

As dental professionals, would you know how to address these issues in your practice? Edie's program helps participants:

1. Identify and understand the most common drugs of abuse
2. Recognize symptoms of addiction
3. Identify the oral and physical manifestations of substance abuse, including effects on the brain
4. Understand the devastating impact that substance abuse has on oral, whole-body, and family health and wellness
5. Create an evidence-based, holistic treatment protocol, including recovery resources for your practice.

Treating a patient who is abusing drugs is becoming the new normal in dentistry. Whether admitted or not, young or old patients are seen daily in practice with some type of drug use issue. Every practice needs to develop protocols for treating these patients. How can you determine those who are struggling? How can you tell if they are using and what they are using?


Other articles by Ann-Marie DePalma


Edie feels it is the duty of dental professionals to address these issues. It has been demonstrated that brief interventions by health professionals can prompt an individual that is abusing drugs or alcohol to seek treatment. As in many other areas of dentistry, we see patients more often than any other health professionals -- are we not health-care providers?

Edie's program offers insights into destructive habits and offers tools that can be used in practice -- she believes that we can make a difference in the lives of our patients! It is essential for the entire team to participate and work together to assist those in their practice who are struggling with drugs or alcohol.

Edie's life, like so many in our society, has been traumatized by addiction. Her world changed six years ago when her husband had his last drink and found the strength and courage to commit his life to recovery instead of alcohol. His story is more common than many can imagine. As the wife of a recovering alcoholic, numerous women around the country, along with her mentor Linda Meeuwenberg, asked Edie to share her story. This sharing prompted other women to contact her with stories of their own devastation. It was as if God thumped her on the head with the message -- share your story on a wider level to help others who are suffering!

She is dedicated to bringing addiction and recovery out of the shadows of shame and into the light. Edie was already an established continuing-education speaker, having presented programs on dental implants nationally and internationally. Therefore, the addition of the addiction program was a comfortable decision.

Her other programs include:

  • Transitions: Creating Your Personal Pathway to Change
  • Meth Mouth and Beyond
  • Making Ergonomics Work for You
  • Peri-Implant Maintenance – Evidence-Based Approach
  • Conquering Co-Dependency: How to Peacefully Co-Exist With a Recovering Addict

Edie's programs are presented in PowerPoint, but with interactional conversations. She includes handouts with key points and resources for participants to use in their practices and daily lives. She feels that interacting and having fun in the program helps with the touchy subject. At the end of her addictions program, participants often approach her to describe their ah-ha moments and personal stories, and these are priceless moments for Edie. Comments such as "I'm not alone in my struggles," or "Edie inspired me to talk with my family about their alcohol use," or "I feel more confident addressing these issues with my patients" are empowering to both participants and Edie.

Edie is a 1985 hygiene graduate of Ferris State University, and she received her BSDH in 2011. She recently completed her MS in psychology. She is also training to become a licensed addiction counselor. Edie is the mother of a seven-year-old daughter, Makaila. She wants to inspire others to seek out, reach, and exceed their potential. She loves gourmet cooking, fashion, and horses. In fact, if she were not a dental hygienist, she would be a professional equestrian. She is a proud member of ADHA and believes in self-regulation and autonomy.

Her belief in self-regulation and autonomy led to Edie's pinnacle of success in dental hygiene with the establishment of her independent dental hygiene practice, About Face Dental Hygiene Spa, in Crested Butte, Colo., that she operated for seven years until spinal surgery ended her full-time clinical career. Edie encourages all hygienists to make a difference in our profession by joining ADHA -- there is only strength in numbers.

Edie enjoys seeing the faces of her course participants when they experience the ah-ha moments and when they share their personal stories. These help her realize that what she is doing is what she has been called to do. God's head thump has become her mission to educate others about addictions.

For more information about Edie and her programs, contact [email protected] or visit RDH

Thought for the month:

"You will find true success in those efforts that captivate your heart and soul!"
Edie Shuman-Gibson

This month's INeedCE course is "Air Polishing: A Mainstay for Dental Hygiene." RDH readers will receive a 50% discount when using code AMSEPT13 – regular cost $49, after discount $24.50.

This continuing education course provides a comprehensive review of air polishing. The initial portion of the course reviews the history of air polishing. The course includes a description of how air polishing removes dental stain and plaque, the clinical techniques used for air polishing, and the Mohs' hardness number of abrasive particles. The course includes the identification of medical conditions that exclude patients from being candidates for air polishing, and a description of facial emphysemas and how they can become a sequela from use of an air polisher. Surfaces of teeth and the types of dental restorative materials that can be effectively treated with air polishing procedures are also identified.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].

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