Effect of tobacco counseling by dental students on patient quitting rate

Othman Shibly
Journal of Dental Education 2010, 74 (2): 140-8
Tobacco use has widespread, devastating effects on the body, including the oral cavity. Today's dental professional must be trained to counsel patients on tobacco cessation, but dental health professionals and students do not feel confident in their counseling abilities. The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine (SDM) established the Tobacco Counseling Cessation Protocol (TCCP), which was implemented in the dental curriculum, and dental students were trained in its use. The goal of this project was to assess the effectiveness of the TCCP by surveying both patients and dental students. Students and patients were contacted to determine the effect of the TCCP on the quitting rate. Third- and fourth-year dental students were surveyed through the school e-mail system and asked to report on their tobacco cessation counseling practices. Patients who received TCCP received follow-up telephone calls to obtain their input on the program and also to determine if they had quit. According to the follow-up survey, 14 percent of patients reduced the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and 22 percent quit entirely. Fifty-one percent of those who received the TCCP made a commitment to quit at the time of the intervention; 32 percent of those receiving the TCCP were still smoke-free at six months, but 19 percent had returned to smoking. If predoctoral students receive appropriate training, they can be effective in motivating patients to quit smoking. Dental students are generally receptive to the educational material on tobacco use and smoking cessation counseling, yet only half report routinely implementing the TCCP. More needs to be done to incorporate tobacco cessation counseling into routine dental care. The culture of dentistry must be changed to view tobacco use as a dental problem.

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