Can interventions delivered by dental professionals help tobacco users to quit?

In addition to the well-known harmful effects of smoking on respiratory and cardiovascular systems, tobacco use is associated with an increased risk for oral disease, including cancer and gum disease. Dental professionals are in a unique position to help tobacco users who present for dental care by providing assistance to help them stop smoking or using other tobacco products. Combined findings from 14 studies including over 10,500 participants showed that tobacco interventions by dental professionals helped tobacco users to quit. These findings are similar for smokeless tobacco users and smokers, and the body of evidence reveals a significant increase in demonstrated benefit compared to earlier findings of this review.

Authors' conclusions: 

Available evidence suggests that behavioral interventions for tobacco cessation conducted by oral health professionals incorporating an oral examination component in the dental office or community setting may increase tobacco abstinence rates among both cigarette smokers and smokeless tobacco users. Differences between the studies limit the ability to make conclusive recommendations regarding the intervention components that should be incorporated into clinical practice, however, behavioral counselling (typically brief) in conjunction with an oral examination was a consistent intervention component that was also provided in some control groups.

Read the full abstract...

Tobacco use has significant adverse effects on oral health. Oral health professionals in the dental office or community setting have a unique opportunity to increase tobacco abstinence rates among tobacco users.


This review assesses the effectiveness of interventions for tobacco cessation delivered by oral health professionals and offered to cigarette smokers and smokeless tobacco users in the dental office or community setting.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group Specialized Register (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (1966-November 2011), EMBASE (1988-November 2011), CINAHL (1982-November 2011), Healthstar (1975-November 2011), ERIC (1967-November 2011), PsycINFO (1984-November 2011), National Technical Information Service database (NTIS, 1964-November 2011), Dissertation Abstracts Online (1861-November 2011), Database of Abstract of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE, 1995-November 2011), and Web of Science (1993-November 2011).

Selection criteria: 

We included randomized and pseudo-randomized clinical trials assessing tobacco cessation interventions conducted by oral health professionals in the dental office or community setting with at least six months of follow-up.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently reviewed abstracts for potential inclusion and abstracted data from included trials. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. The primary outcome was abstinence from smoking or all tobacco use (for users of smokeless tobacco) at the longest follow-up, using the strictest definition of abstinence reported. The effect was summarised as an odds ratio, with correction for clustering where appropriate. Heterogeneity was assessed using the I² statistic and where appropriate a pooled effect was estimated using an inverse variance fixed-effect model.

Main results: 

Fourteen clinical trials met the criteria for inclusion in this review. Included studies assessed the efficacy of interventions in the dental office or in a community school or college setting. Six studies evaluated the effectiveness of interventions among smokeless tobacco (ST) users, and eight studies evaluated interventions among cigarette smokers, six of which involved adult smokers in dental practice settings. All studies employed behavioral interventions and only one required pharmacotherapy as an interventional component. All studies included an oral examination component. Pooling all 14 studies suggested that interventions conducted by oral health professionals can increase tobacco abstinence rates (odds ratio [OR] 1.71, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.44 to 2.03) at six months or longer, but there was evidence of heterogeneity (I² = 61%). Within the subgroup of interventions for smokers, heterogeneity was smaller (I² = 51%), but was largely attributable to a large study showing no evidence of benefit. Within this subgroup there were five studies which involved adult smokers in dental practice settings. Pooling these showed clear evidence of benefit and minimal heterogeneity (OR 2.38, 95% CI 1.70 to 3.35, 5 studies, I² = 3%) but this was a posthoc subgroup analysis. Amongst the studies in smokeless tobacco users the heterogeneity was also attributable to a large study showing no sign of benefit, possibly due to intervention spillover to control colleges; the other five studies indicated that interventions for ST users were effective (OR 1.70; 95% CI 1.36 to 2.11).