Dentists in unique position to help smokers quit

Dental experts believes No Smoking Day tomorrow (9 March) provides an ideal opportunity for the dental team to talk to patients who wish to quit smoking.

With around 21% of the UK’s population still smoking, the risk of developing mouth cancer, the fifth most common cancer in the UK, is a growing concern amongst those in the dental profession.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, says: ‘When you consider that your mouth and teeth are susceptible to the effects of the 4,000 or so chemicals contained in cigarettes, it is encouraging to know two thirds of people who do smoke want to give up.

‘Many people are now aware of the dangers smoking can cause, including tooth staining, dental plaque, bad breath, tooth loss and gum disease, which has been linked to serious medical problems and fatal heart and lung diseases. The habit has also been linked to premature and low birth weight babies. The Foundation continues to support No Smoking Day.’

Tobacco is the most likely cause of mouth cancer, linked to around three-quarters of all cases of a disease which kills one person every five hours in the UK.

With new cases occurring all the time, many people still remain unaware of the risk smoking poses.

Dr Carter said: ‘The dental profession is in a unique position to warn patients of the risks and consequences of smoking.

‘In September, dentists in Dublin and Cork offered free mouth examinations, and six cases of mouth cancer were found. This only serves to further reinforce the message that regular visits to the dentist can help detect early signs of mouth cancer.’

Early mouth cancer warning signs include red and white patches in the mouth, ulcers which do not heal within three weeks and lumps or swellings in the mouth or neck.

Early detection and prevention are key to curbing the effects of oral cancer and considerably increases survival chances, allowing for simpler treatment and results in a better quality of life for sufferers.

For information and free expert advice on oral health issues call the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188, or alternatively visit

For smoking cessation support, you can also contact the NHS Stop Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332, or visit

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