Swap Smokes for Healthier Teeth & Gums

Smoking cessation quitlines may begin promoting oral hygiene too

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A good time to promote oral hygiene may pop up when a person is ready to quit smoking. Tobacco counselors can prompt their patients: out with the smoking, in with the flossing and brushing.

A recent study tested whether oral hygiene promotion could be delivered during smoking cessation counseling in state-funded and insurance-funded quitlines.

The results showed that people calling a quitline for smoking cessation counseling were open to oral hygiene counseling as well.

"Say “no” to smoking by saying “yes” to oral hygiene."

Jennifer B. McClure, PhD, from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, WA, worked with a team of researchers to investigate whether telephone help lines for quitting smoking could be used to promote oral health.

Due to major public health concerns, treating oral disease and preventing the onset of future oral diseases are important public health goals, according to the study's authors.

The authors noted that many tobacco users neglect good oral hygiene practices. In addition, tobacco use itself increases the risk of developing oral diseases.

For this study, researchers set out to see what would happen if they added oral health counseling to smoking cessation counseling given through telephone hotlines for quitting tobacco.

The researchers surveyed 455 people who had recently called a tobacco quitline service that was either supported by their medical insurance or was state funded.

Survey questions asked participants about their dental hygiene habits, risk factors for oral disease, motivation for changing how they took care of their teeth and if they were interested in any future oral health promotion services.

People who called the insurance-funded quitline reported higher socioeconomic status, were more likely to have dental insurance and reported better oral health and dental hygiene habits than people who had called the state-funded quitline.

Despite their better habits, nearly 80 percent of the callers to the insurance-funded quitline failed to meet basic daily oral hygiene recommendations, and 33 percent had not visited the dentist in over a year. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice per day and flossing seven days per week.

Furthermore, 63 percent of insurance-funded callers said they drank alcohol on a daily basis, which can react with tobacco to increase a person’s risk for oral cancers.

Nearly half of the insurance-funded callers (44 percent) said they were interested in learning how to improve their oral health.

The researchers found that callers to the state-funded quitline were more interested in receiving oral health promotion services for improving oral health than insurance-funded quitline callers.

The authors recommended quitlines use dual counseling for smoking cessation and better oral hygiene, which could have a mutually beneficial effect on both tobacco cessation and improved oral hygiene.

“Tobacco cessation and oral health promotion would seem to make for a comfortable partnership," said Mark Bornfeld, DDS, who was not involved with the study.  

"Tobacco quitlines could exploit the opportunity to reinforce the oral health efforts of dentists, and could also provide motivation and guidance to those for whom professional dental care is out of reach," continued Dr. Bornfeld.

This study was published in April in BMC Public Health.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the Group Health Research Institute supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 15, 2013
Last Updated:
January 20, 2014