Attitudes of Irish dental, dental hygiene and dental nursing students and newly qualified practitioners to tobacco use cessation: a national survey

B McCartan, C McCreary, C Healy
European Journal of Dental Education: Official Journal of the Association for Dental Education in Europe 2008, 12 (1): 17-22

BACKGROUND: Ireland has some of the strictest smoking regulations in the world. Little is known of the attitudes of student Irish dental healthcare workers towards tobacco control and tobacco use cessation. This study aimed at determining the knowledge and attitudes of these students towards the deleterious effects of tobacco in the mouth and towards tobacco use cessation in dental practice.

METHOD: A questionnaire survey was distributed to 654 students (including newly qualified) on dentistry, dental hygiene and dental nursing programmes in Irish dental schools. Information sought included college, course, year of study, sex, age, nationality, smoking status, knowledge of effects of tobacco in the mouth and attitudes towards tobacco use cessation in dental practice and towards the Irish smoking bans.

MAIN FINDINGS: There was a 90% response rate. In all, 12% of dental students, 25% of dental hygiene students and 31% of dental nursing students were current smokers. Newly qualified dental hygienists were as knowledgeable about tobacco effects in the mouth as newly qualified dentists. Overall, the majority in each student category believed that all three groups could be effective tobacco counsellors and should provide tobacco use cessation counselling to patients, although less than half of evening course dental nursing students felt that dental nurses could be effective counsellors or should provide counselling. There was overwhelming support for the Irish smoking ban. Only a minority of dental students and dental nursing students had received instruction in tobacco use cessation counselling.

CONCLUSIONS: There are strong positive attitudes to tobacco use cessation counselling in dental practice among these young dental healthcare students. This is true even amongst those who have not received specific instruction in tobacco use cessation counselling.

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