new study finds that although dental visits represent an opportunity to identify and help patients quit smoking, they remain an untapped venue for treatment of tobacco dependence. The study appears in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

Researchers surveyed a representative sample of US-practicing general dentists, using multivariable analysis to assess correlates of adherence to tobacco use treatment guidelines and to analyze factors that influence providers’ willingness to offer tobacco cessation assistance if reimbursed for this service.

More than 90% of dental providers reported that they regularly ask patients about tobacco use, 76% counsel patients, and 45% routinely offer cessation assistance, defined as referring patients for cessation counseling, providing a cessation prescription, or both. Results from multivariable analysis indicated that cessation assistance was associated with the following factors:

  • A practice with one or more hygienists.
  • A chart system that includes a tobacco-use question.
  • Providers having received training on treating tobacco dependence.
  • Providers having positive attitudes toward treating tobacco use.

Providers who did not offer assistance but who reported that they would change their practice patterns if sufficiently reimbursed were more likely to be in a group practice, treat patients insured through Medicaid, and have positive attitudes toward treating tobacco dependence.