Oral health professionals

Smoking tobacco affects a large percentage of the population. In addition to the numerous effects tobacco has on general health, smoking is a major contributor to the development of both oral cancer and periodontal (gum) disease.

In the community, oral health professionals (OHPs), such as dentists and dental hygienists, are seen as a respected source of health information and are ideally placed to deliver smoking cessation advice to their patients.

Why would oral health professionals get involved in smoking cessation?

There are a number of reasons why brief smoking cessation interventions should be implemented in the dental setting:

  • Dental practitioners are an ideal position to identify oral health conditions that are visual signs of the impact of smoking, including effects ranging from stained teeth to periodontal disease and oral cancer.
  • A large proportion of smokers are not happy to continue smoking for the rest of their lives and want to stop.
  • There is evidence that brief advice given by a health professional can help smokers stop smoking successfully.
  • Oral health personnel often have an established and longstanding rapport with patients and see them on a regular basis. There are many one and two-minute occasions that can be used to initiate a short conversation on tobacco related cessation advice during an appointment.

What is Smokefree Smiles?

Smokefree Smiles is a project led by Quit Victoria, in partnership with the Department of Health Victoria, Dental Health Services Victoria and the Australian Dental Association (Victorian Branch). The project is an action of the Healthy Together Victoria – Action plan for oral health promotion 2013–2017 and aims to:

  • Increase the capacity and engagement of OHPs to conduct short conversations to help their patients quit smoking through;
      • tailored training developed specifically for OHPs
      • provision of resources, such as patient brochures
  • Develop tools and systems required to support these conversations in public and private settings
  • Improve routine referral for all smoking clients to Quitline or quit services in the oral health setting

Barriers and facilitating factors for delivering smoking cessation advice in the oral health setting have been gathered, and these have informed the development of training by Quit Victoria for OHPs.

Research suggests that some OHPs are willing to ask and advise patients about their smoking but are less inclined to help them quit or arrange follow ups to discuss their quit attempts. There is a gap between what OHPs think are appropriate activities for their setting and what interventions are implemented in practice.

Training is clearly needed and the Smokefree Smiles project will aim to legitimise OHPs roles in smoking cessation. The project will also aim to increase dentists' confidence and skills to build smoking cessation into their daily practice using current ways of working, and provide strategies and resources to support dentists.

Training and resources for OHPs

Quit have worked with oral health professionals to develop a model that helps integrate smoking cessation in the oral health setting: The short conversation to quitting success is Ask, Advise and Help, or just say AAH.

The components of the training include a two-hour face-to-face sessionand half hour online module developed specifically for OHPs that cover:

  1. Background and evidence for dentists' involvement in smoking cessation
  2. The theory about smoking cessation intervention
  3. Strategies for integrating dental care and the AAH model

The package also includes resources developed specifically to support OHPs to build smoking cessation interventions into their existing routine plus information for OHPs and their patients on accessing Quit services and resources.

The pilot of the project is currently underway to test the resources and it is expected that this will be completed in the near future.

Referrals to Quitline

Oral health teams can provide smoking cessation assistance within the time constraints of a busy practice by referring patients to Quitline.

Use the referral fax sheet or refer patients online to help support your patients to quit.

Further information

The Smoking and the mouth fact sheet provides further information for OHPs.

For any further information regarding Smokefree Smiles and Quit’s support of oral health professionals, please contact:
Andrew Sodamaco
03 9514 6451
andrew.sodamaco@cancervic.org.au