Improving tobacco dependence education for dental and dental hygiene students at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

Margie R Arnett, Nadim Z Baba, Darlene Cheek
Journal of Dental Education 2012, 76 (4): 472-8
In a general effort to facilitate dental professionals' effective tobacco-dependence education (TDE), the student part of the project reported here had three purposes: 1) to promote tobacco cessation activities in the dental school clinic, 2) to evaluate dental and dental hygiene students' confidence level in treating tobacco-dependent patients, and 3) to determine the frequency, duration, and depth with which the students assisted tobacco-dependent patients. Surveys of senior dental and dental hygiene students at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry were conducted in 2008. Of the twenty-seven questions on the survey, nineteen related to the procedures students performed and questions asked of patients, one question asked how many minutes students spent counseling patients, and seven questions related to barriers to incorporating TDE activities. Only 56.5 percent of the responding dental students reported they routinely "asked and advised" about their patients' smoking behaviors, but 87.5 percent of the responding dental hygiene students reported they routinely did so. After the curricular intervention, the follow-up survey found that the dental students more frequently showed their patients the effects of tobacco on the oral mucosa and more frequently discussed pharmacotherapy options and made referrals during routine care. Until all dental and dental hygiene students are required to meet written board and clinical competencies in TDE and given adequate mentoring by clinical faculty to treat tobacco-dependent patients, the likelihood of seeing major improvements in tobacco-cessation treatment in dental practices is low.

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