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Conference marks first step in project aimed to eliminate patient nicotine dependence

Tobacco cessation education outreach advanced May 27 with a “train the trainer” event in Dallas for dental hygiene instructors from all 22 accredited dental hygiene schools in Texas.

This broad-based educational effort was facilitated by a nearly $300,000 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas received only four months ago by Dr. Dan Jones, professor and chair of public health sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

The grant aims to provide dental hygiene students with streamlined instruction for helping patients eliminate nicotine dependence. The effort is all part of raising awareness of nicotine use and how it impacts not just oral health but overall wellness, an area where primary care providers have a notable impact.

May 27 dental hygiene conference
Dr. Dan Jones, Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, Elain Benton
and Grady Basler, all from public health sciences at
the dental school.

As part of dental hygiene clinical training across the state, faculty members will incorporate real-life tips and research-backed practical solutions into the patient wellness curriculum. Students will take a test at the beginning and end of the semester to help gauge any changes of opinion. Perhaps even more important, graduates will receive a survey several months after graduation aimed to shed light on the impact of tobacco-specific training on their subsequent experiences in a private practice setting.

The Dallas conference, held at the Warwick Melrose Hotel, addressed the crucial components of the dental patient wellness curriculum. Through CDs that recap the training, as well as reference materials and webinar focus groups, instructors will be equipped to instruct students in tobacco cessation discussions.

The curriculum builds upon a previous NIH grant Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, public health sciences professor and associate chair, received approximately five years ago, which gave TAMHSC-BCD faculty the chance to develop and field test the idea on dental students.

That idea was further refined last fall when Rankin received a $300,000 CPRIT grant that was used to introduce dental students across the state’s three schools to the tobacco cessation training. Now, the college will be able to reach dental hygiene students across Texas with a program the school knows is successful.

Tried-and-true strategies with patients are straightforward: “For instance, make the question about tobacco use a part of every dental exam,” Jones said. Offering the patients options and writing referrals is the next step, including educating patients on the drugs available to curb tobacco use.

“The dentist in the practice may write the prescription but the hygienist follows up,” Jones said. “It’s a team effort, and it is impressive that every school of dental hygiene in the state is collaborating with us in this effort.”

May 27 dental hygiene conference May 27 dental hygiene conference

From left to right: Cherri Kading, dental hygiene; Elain Benton,
public health sciences; and Lisa Mallonee, dental hygiene (all 
with the college).

Faculty from more than 20 dental hygiene schools across the
state attended the training.