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.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

More Articles You May Like


Tobacco's greatest threat to your health may be its association with oral cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:

  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7