Tobacco dependence education in U.S. Dental assisting programs' curricula

Emily Svetanoff, Laura M Romito, Pamela T Ford, Charles J Palenik, Joan M Davis
Journal of Dental Education 2015, 79 (4): 378-87
The aim of this study was to assess the level of tobacco dependence education (TDE) in the curricula of U.S. dental assisting programs and to compare the findings to those from a similar assessment of dental hygiene curricula. In the 2012-13 academic year, a 51-item survey was sent to directors of all 298 accredited dental assisting programs. Assessed were curricular TDE content, time spent on each topic, expected levels of clinical competence, and resources used. Of the 298 potential participants, 89 programs returned completed surveys, for a response rate of 30%. Of the 13 TDE-related content areas, those most often covered were oral disease related to tobacco use (100%) and general diseases related to tobacco use (93%); those least often covered were stages of (behavior) change (29%), how to develop a comprehensive tobacco intervention program in a private office setting (23%), and strategies for community-based tobacco control (22%). Responding program directors indicated the following levels of tobacco cessation intervention at which students should demonstrate competence: brief, 44%; moderate, 55%; intensive, 8%. Less than half of the reporting programs conducted a formal assessment of clinical competence in any TDE-related skills; however, skills in assessing patient tobacco use and associating head and neck findings to tobacco use were formally or informally assessed by 74% and 61%, respectively. Compared to dental hygiene programs, TDE appeared to play a smaller role in the curricula of dental assisting programs, and dental assisting programs were less likely to formally assess clinical competence in TDE.

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