‘Smokeless tobacco’ awareness a must for hygienists

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is recommending a key role for dental professionals in their public health intervention proposals to help stop the use of smokeless tobacco by people of South Asian Origin.

Dentists, dental nurses and dental hygienists may be asked to play a leading role as part of new proposals to stop the use of smokeless tobacco in the UK. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have published a consultation on their proposals, which recommends a key intervention and education role for dental professionals.

NICE is also recommending more training for dental professionals to help them gain a greater understanding of smokeless tobacco including terminology, symptoms and approaches to successful intervention.

Smokeless tobacco is associated with a number of health problems including nicotine addiction, mouth and oral cancer(3), periodontal disease, heart attacks and strokes, problems in pregnancy and following childbirth and late diagnosis of dental problems as smokeless tobacco products can often mask pain. Smokeless tobacco is mainly used by ‘people of South Asian origin’, which includes people with ancestral links to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.

The draft guidance recommends that dental professionals take specific actions including:

•    Asking patients about their smokeless tobacco use and record the outcome in their patient notes.

•    Making users aware of the potential health risks and advise them to stop, using a brief intervention.

•    Referring users who want to quit the habit to tobacco cessation services that use counsellors trained in behavioural support.

•    Recording the person’s response to any attempts to encourage or help them to stop using smokeless tobacco in the patient notes.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘Smokeless tobacco is a little known area for many health professionals in the UK so the current draft public health guidance is a positive step to bring greater knowledge and understanding.

‘The evidence that does exist indicates that South Asian women – the main users of smokeless tobacco – are approaching four times more likely to suffer from mouth cancer. Quite rightly dental professionals have been identified as major players to help reduce these risks and prevent the serious health conditions caused by smokeless tobacco.

‘The British Dental Health Foundation supports NICE’s draft proposals and encourages all dental professionals to include the intervention of smokeless tobacco usage as part of their continuing professional development.’

The consultation is open to comments until 25 April 2012.

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