Smoking cessation – providing the right support
We know that smoking is bad for our health – both general and dental. It seems the message is getting out there, too. There was more than a 5% decline in the number of smokers aged 18 and over in the UK between 2011 and 2018.[i] This is great news for public health and the dental profession alike, but there is still work to do.
The challenges of quitting
Dr Niraj Devalia from Beaumont House Dental Practice shares why his patients have found quitting their cigarette habit so challenging.
“Stress seems to be the greatest problem for people trying to quit smoking,” he says. “Most people re-start smoking because of a stressful event in their life. I also find that a lot of my patients smoke in social situations. Sometimes they don’t want to be left on their own when all the other members of their group go outside for a smoke. In other cases, they are tempted by the enjoyment of smoking when having a drink. Unfortunately, smoking and drinking alcohol seem to go well together for many people.”
The vaping era
Advocated by some as a cessation aid, e-cigarettes (or vapes) have become popular around the world. In England, around 5.4% of adults use e-cigarettes, with around approximately 14.9-18.5% of smokers using them.[ii] Niraj comments:
“I do think e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking, because I’ve seen a lot of patients stop in this way. They will reduce a 20-a-day cigarette habit to 10-a-day when using e-cigarettes. Many gradually reduce the number of cigarettes to a point where they have nearly or completely stopped. However, they then rely on e-cigarettes, which contain addictive nicotine. Consequently, I ensure patients know about the limited research available and personally, I would only recommend e-cigarettes with no nicotine. That said, I would definitely prefer they smoked fewer cigarettes if they chose to try vaping on their own.”
Help your patients stop smoking
Based on feedback from his patients, Niraj offers some top tips that people have found useful when trying to kick the habit.
“I would always point patients towards the local smoking cessation centre. Here, they can get nicotine replacement patches and learn about breathing exercises that can help. It is often about introducing small changes to help break the habit.
“I would also advise patients to become more active. Whether due to an increased awareness of their health, or concern that they can’t spend more than a few minutes on the treadmill, this often helps motivate them to quit. It also provides a positive way of channelling their energy and gives them a new focus.”
Niraj reinforces the message in ‘Delivering Better Oral Health’ to help patients improve their health and wellbeing.
Patients will soon see the difference
The general health benefits for those who quit smoking are plentiful. In terms of oral health, Niraj summarises the changes he sees among these patients:
“These patients just look healthier with fresher skin – they are also more alert and more active. Many also seem to be more relaxed and engaged with their wellbeing. Achieving their goal of cutting down or quitting appears to have a very positive affect on their mental state.
“Regarding oral health, these patients experience less gingival disease and will ultimately keep their teeth for longer. They also have less staining on their teeth, so generally require fewer referrals to the dental hygienist.”
This doesn’t even mention the financial benefits of not regularly buying a pack of cigarettes. The average price for a pack is around £10.80 in the UK – those smoking 20-a-day will save nearly £4,000 by kicking the habit!
So, whether as part of Stoptober or just your routine dental appointments, make sure your patients know you can support them in their efforts to go smoke-free.
[ii] Gov.uk. Vaping in England: evidence update summary February 2019. [Accessed September 2019]