By Dr. Deborah Marynak
Dentists and Dental Hygienists have a responsibility to care for the oral health of their patients, which is why it’s so essential to recommend patients stop using tobacco products. This includes informing patients about the health risks of smoking and tobacco use, as well as informing patients of the benefits of quitting. Unfortunately, many Dental Professionals rarely talk to patients about the serious risks of smoking and other tobacco use on their health. Here’s a closer look at the negative effects of tobacco use, tobacco use and oral health, with helpful tips Dental Hygienists can use to talk to patients about smoking cessation.
The Negative Effects of Tobacco Use
Smoking tobacco has the ability to harm almost every organ within the body. It reduces overall health and has the potential to cause or increase the risk of many diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cataracts, COPD, asthma, and many types of cancers. Some of the other negative effects of tobacco use as noted by the CDC include:
- Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by 2-4 times
- Smoking can damage blood vessels, resulting in the narrowing and thickening of vessels
- Smoking causes many lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- Smoking is the root culprit in most lung cancer cases
- Smoking is often involved in cervical, kidney, liver, esophageal, bladder, stomach, and pancreatic cancers
- Smoking increases the risk for SIDS, preterm deliveries, low birth weight, and orofacial clefts in babies
- Smoking may make diabetes more difficult to control
- Smoking causes inflammation and reduces immune function
Tobacco Use and Oral Health
Smoking and other tobacco use has a negative impact on oral health as well. Because tobacco use interferes with immune function and interferes with cell function within gum tissue, smokers are more likely to develop oral infections. Further, the patient who “owns” the bacteria associated with Periodontal Disease will experience a more rapid progression of the disease when they smoke. Some of the other oral health problems that may be caused by tobacco use include:
- Tooth discoloration
- Increased bone loss in the jaw
- Reduced success rate of dental implants
- Higher risk of oral cancer
- Increased buildup of calculus and plaque
- Bad breath
- Higher risk of white patches in the oral cavity
- Inflammation of salivary glands
- Increased risk of tooth loss
- Higher risk of cancer of the esophagus and throat
Talking to Patients About Smoking Cessation
Dentists and Dental Hygienists know how bad tobacco use can be for oral and overall health, so it’s essential for Dental Health Professionals to begin talking to patients about smoking cessation. Talking about cessation has the potential to save lives, but it’s often difficult to get the conversation going. Here are a few tips we can use when bringing up smoking cessation to patients.
- Use Motivational Interviewing – Motivation interviewing is a non-confrontational and non-judgmental way to address smoking cessation. Dental Hygienists may want to begin by asking patients if they can talk about the negative effects of tobacco use on oral and overall health. Next, Dental Professionals should offer a few helpful facts about smoking, increasing the patient’s awareness of the potential risks of their tobacco use.
- Offer Patients Cessation Resources – Patients that have encouragement and support are more likely to quit smoking, so it’s important for dental professionals to offer patients smoking cessation resources to help them quit. Resources may include apps, websites, and telephone counseling lines.
- Provide Patients with Incentives to Quit – Consider offering patients incentives to help them stop using tobacco. Since many tobacco users want to have stains removed, consider offering a free whitening treatment after going 3-4 months without using tobacco. Complimentary periodontal maintenance or a complimentary cleaning may also offer a great incentive.
OTC and Prescription Smoking Cessation Aids
It’s difficult to quit smoking, so many patients need some help. Both over the counter (OTC) and prescription smoking cessation aids are available. Nicotine replacement products are a popular option, and they’re designed to help wean the body off nicotine. Over the counter options include chewing gum, lozenges, and skin patches. Nicotrol is a prescription nicotine replacement product that is available as an inhaler or a nasal spray.
Prescription smoking cessation aids that don’t contain nicotine are also available. Both Zyban and Chantix are oral tablets that are only available with a prescription. These medications work on the brain to help smokers stop smoking. However, they do come with side effects and the side effects should be discussed with patients before these medications are prescribed.
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
– Mary Englebreit
Dr. Deborah Marynak is the owner of DentalStaffing.org, a dentist with over 30 years experience, and is committed to helping Dental Professionals find the right fit for both employees and employers. She also works with Dental Offices to help them streamline their clinical systems and teach Dental Teams how to effectively document to avoid risk.