Attitudes of Hungarian Dental Professionals to Tobacco Use and Cessation

By Antal, Márk; Forster, András et al. | Central European Journal of Public Health, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Attitudes of Hungarian Dental Professionals to Tobacco Use and Cessation


Antal, Márk, Forster, András, Zalai, Zsolt, Barabás, Katalin, Ramseier, Christoph, Nagy, Katalin, Central European Journal of Public Health


SUMMARY

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death worldwide. The regularity of visits of patients to dental offices offers a valuable contact for health professionals and the healthcare system to initiate anti-smoking activity. However, these contacts remain unutilized and there is little interaction between doctor and patient with regard to prevention of smoking and its consequences. The aim of this study was to evaluate the current situation and attitudes towards smoking and giving up smoking among dental professionals.

A survey was carried out in the sample consisting in total of 342 participants, 212 students of dentistry and 130 dentists. Students were asked to complete a questionaire during the enrolment period; dentists were asked to complete the questionnaire while attending an annual compulsory in-service training course at the University of Szeged. The data were analysed statistically using SPSS 10.0 software, significance was tested using the Mann-Whitney U test and results were compared with data from a similar study conducted by the same research group in 2004 in which general knowledge and attitude towards smoking and giving up smoking was measured and evaluated.

Results demonstrated that there is a lower number of smokers among dental professionals (dentists: 22.3%; students: 20.3%) than in the Hungarian general population and high interest in encouraging and assisting patients in giving up smoking (dentists: 45%; students: 54%). Comparing the results of this study to earlier data collated in 2004, we find a decreasing ratio of smokers among students (34% in 2004 and 20.3% in 2011). An increasing need for information about smoking cessation, tobacco related health hazards and the lack of detailed knowledge about methods and patient education were identified.

Key words: smoking, dental students, giving up smoking, dental professionals, questionnaire survey

INTRODUCTION

Smoking is one of the most addictive habits and the most preventable cause of death and disease. There are four million smoking-related deaths in the world annually, and 30% of all human cancer is linked to smoking. The battle against smoking takes place in various places including dental practice. Dentists have a special role in identifying smokers: odor, tooth staining and poor oral hygiene are immediate revealing signs for a dentist.

Smoking is a significant public health burden and cigarette smoking is responsible for 75 percent of deaths resulting from oral and pharyngeal cancer (1). Beyond that, Hungary is one of the leading countries in prevalence of lung, mouth, esophageal, and laryngeal cancer in Europe (2). In terms of oral health risks, smoking is well documented as a significant risk factor for oral diseases such as periodontal disease, keratosis and coronal and root caries (3,4).

Dental professionals are therefore in an exceptional position to offer preventive care (5,6); they encounter patients of all ages and may notice the signs of smoking earlier than any other health professional. They also have access to protocols that encourage giving up smoking and pharmaceutical support if needed (7). Health problems related to smoking are among the most preventable sequelae of the ill habit of smoking (8).

Therefore, knowledge about smoking and methods that may help patients to give up smoking have become essential for dentists and it is accepted that dental professionals need to be more involved in the fight against smoking in order to reduce the morbidity and mortality caused by this disastrous habit (9).

Patients visiting dental offices have regular contact with healthcare professionals, yet there is very little interaction between doctor and patient about smoking and its consequences. Generally, this is attributed to the lack of practice, time and resistance on the part of the patients, so dental professionals often avoid this topic (10).

In order to improve the influence dentists may have on patients who want to give up smoking, an approach utilizing this profession in preventive anti-smoking programmes should be considered. …

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