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Grant funds tobacco cessation education project

CPRIT LogoDr. Dan Jones, professor and chair of public health sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, received a grant for $295,000 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas in January.

This grant will fund efforts to enhance tobacco cessation education and practice for dental hygiene students throughout Texas and thus positively influence their patient-motivation behavior in practice following graduation.

Dental professionals are well positioned to deliver a tobacco cessation message, because dental visits are longer in duration and scheduled more frequently than medical visits. Dental hygienists in particular emphasize preventive oral and general health behaviors with patients. Tobacco interventions fit naturally into this context, and demonstrating the proximal oral effects of smoking and smokeless tobacco use can be a powerful tool in motivating tobacco users to quit.

“A majority of dental clinicians believe they should engage in tobacco control activities and are interested in learning how to treat tobacco dependence,” Jones says. “Dental patients who receive brief tobacco treatment quit at two to three times the rate of patients receiving usual care.”

At present, although the 21 schools of dental hygiene in Texas provide some tobacco intervention instruction, the curricula are inconsistent and some topics are not included. Typically, the burden of delivering the material is the responsibility of a single faculty member who – given the geographic diversity of the hygiene programs – is often unlikely to have access to tobacco cessation experts.

Jones’ collaborative project will provide consistency and stability. Faculty at the Texas dental hygiene schools will be trained in a comprehensive tobacco education and cessation curriculum that they will in turn present to their students. This is an extension of a current project providing similar training to dental students at the three Texas dental schools. That project began in August of last year and is directed by Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, professor in public health sciences, supported by a grant of $299,861 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

“The recruitment and education of faculty willing to reinforce tobacco cessation in clinical practice during clinical training is essential to ensuring that graduates incorporate this into their practice after graduation,” says Jones.

A dedicated website will offer additional resources and provide a forum for feedback from faculty and students. The success of these activities will be evaluated by a survey of participating students while in school, faculty focus groups conducted via Webinar and a survey of graduates six months after graduation.

“This program will result in approximately 500 new practicing hygienists each year who are better equipped to practice tobacco cessation, improve oral health and decrease the morbidity and mortality from all tobacco-attributable cancers,” says Jones. “Continuation of the faculty collaboration and the educational plan will create a new generation of clinicians prepared to provide tobacco intervention for patients in practice.”