Counseling by Student Dentists Helps Patients Quit Smoking

Students at the State University of New York at Buffalo's School of Dental Medicine are using a new approach to help patients quit smoking.

Instead of referring them to a "quit line" for support and guidance, third- and fourth-year dental students are using non-judgmental tobacco counseling to encourage their tobacco-using patients to quit.

"These efforts were based on our goal of making dental treatment a successful long-term benefit for our patients by addressing all risk factors associated with oral disease," said Dr. Othman Shibly, UB assistant professor of periodontics and endodontics, who developed the program. "Research has shown that there is no match for smoking in causing harm to oral health."

According to Dr. Shibly, 51 percent of the 89 patients who accepted and received tobacco counseling from the student-dentists agreed to quit immediately. Twenty-nine patients, or 32 percent, were still smoke-free after six months.

To conduct their research, the student-dentists received eight hours of training on the effects of tobacco and on how to perform nonjudgmental and personalized tobacco-use assessment and counseling. A key approach they utilized was adhering to the established "5 As" protocol:

  • "Ask" the patient about their smoking habits, type of tobacco used and frequency of use.
  • "Advise" patients about the effects of tobacco on their oral health
  • "Assess" patients to determine their interest in quitting on a scale of 1-10 (10 being "most interested").
  • "Assist" patients who want to quit by offering nicotine patches and suggestions on how to avoid the temptation to smoke, such as throwing away tobacco and putting away ashtrays.
  • "Arrange" to call patients to see how they are doing.

Dr. Shibly said the students are receptive to carrying out the new protocol, and most patients are very appreciative.

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