Study Finds Most Dentists Not Doing Enough to Help Patients Quit Smoking

During the Golden Age of smoking in the U.S., Americans could open Time, Newsweek or Reader’s Digest and find advertisements featuring dentists offering testimonial recommendations for particular brands of cigarettes. Besides being a great bit of nostalgic propaganda, these old ads allow us to remember a time when not everyone in the medical community was convinced about the dangers of smoking.

Today, nearly every dentist will tell patients that smoking destroys their smiles, causing conditions that range from gum disease to tooth discoloration to oral cancers and bone loss. However, while it’s an established fact that smoking does serious and permanent damage to an individual’s oral health, a new study has found that many oral health professionals often fail to discuss the importance of           quitting to patients that smoke.

A Conversation Worth Having

Published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the study found that only one in 10 patients who actively smoke have had discussions with their dentist about the need to quit.

Despite their position to speak to patients about the oral health conditions that smoking can cause, many dentists take a secondary role when counseling patients on the need to quit when compared to most primary physicians. The authors of the CDC study hope that this behavior will begin to change and that dentists start to serve as motivators for patients to quit.

As part of their study, researchers analyzed data from CDC questionnaires completed by 5,147 active smokers. Of those respondents, 3,612 had visited a health care provider within the last year. Nearly half of the respondents were female and most were between the ages of 25 to 64.

Researchers discovered that 51 percent of active smokers who visited a primary physician were advised to quit smoking but that only 12 percent of dentist discussed quitting with their patients.

Male patients over the age of 45 were most likely to receive counseling about quitting when compared to other age groups. Heavy smokers were more likely to receive counseling about quitting from their dentist when compared to light smokers. The study also found that patients who received advise about quitting from their dentist were usually part of a higher socioeconomic class and had private health insurance.

Researchers concluded that has a whole, dental professionals have been missing a golden opportunity to teach patients about the importance of quitting smoking and about what the consequences of continuing the habit could be to their long-term oral and overall health. This despite previous studies that suggest smokers expect to receive, and are more receptive to, advice to quit from dental professionals.

The Need to Quit

At Newberg Family Dental, Dr. McLeod and her committed staff want to provide every patient with the tools, information and support needed to help them quit smoking.

By now, you should know the dangers smoking present to both your long-term oral health and to the current state of your smile. Whether you want to improve the cosmetic state of your smile or want to help improve your oral health going forward, we cannot understate the difference that quitting smoking can make. If you have any questions about quitting smoking or what the impact smoking has on your oral health, feel free to talk to Dr. McLeod or any member of our staff during your next appointment.