5 ways to quit smoking only your dental team will know

The media spotlight may have shifted to other oral health issues of late - such as our obsession with sugar and all the negative impact that may have on our bodies, but smoking remains a challenge many of us face daily.

Research commissioned by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) recently revealed that 37% of smokers in the UK have noticed a negative difference in their appearance since they took up smoking, with 36% saying their teeth had become discoloured, and 7% saying they were concerned about the effect smoking was having on their oral health.

We are fully versed with the negative health implications, but smoking is an addiction some find hard to kick, despite it causing a plethora of medical problems and, in some cases, fatal diseases.

But did you know it has implications for the health of your mouth, too, and we're not just talking about lingering 'ashtray breath'?

Aesthetically speaking, the nicotine and tar found in cigarettes and other tobacco products can stain teeth in a very short space of time and ugly yellow discolouration will ruin a smile.

Cigarette smoke also interferes with the mouth's chemistry, creating a build-up of plaque on the teeth that causes gum disease - the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.

And then there are the risks of fatal diseases, such as cancers of the throat, tongue, soft palate and neck. Did you know that people who quit cigarettes halve their risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus within five years?

It's No Smoking Day on 9 March and it's worth noting that dental teams provide the perfect opportunity to discuss giving up nicotine.

With smokers sacrificing their oral health for their habit, the BHF is encouraging dental teams to use this year's No Smoking Day as an opportunity to raise awareness and boost participation among patients by promoting quit aids in their practice and local support services available in their area.

More often than not we visit our dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist for a check-up when seemingly fit and healthy, which means they can talk you through the health risks without any other health issues being a factor.

In fact, dental therapists are trained in assessing the health of your mouth and can provide dental health education, either on a one-to-one basis or in a group situation - smoking cessation is an area in which they may specialise too.

Indeed, evidence suggests that adult smokers who received a combination of behavioural interventions together with an oral examination in dental practices more than doubled their chances of quitting when compared to smokers receiving no intervention.

So, with this in mind, we invited a handful of friendly dental therapists to share their top tips for kicking the habit this No Smoking Day - and beyond. Have a read and see which one suits you best!

Top tip 1. Dental therapist Keileigh Ierston suggests that any smoker struggling to quit should 'break the time association with that first cigarette'. She says: 'Have a coffee or tea first - or find a small household chore with which to busy yourself. This helps to reduce the time triggers and the mindset that says: 'I'm awake therefore I must have a fag.'

Top tip 2. Victoria Wilson believes in 'seizing the moment' in a bid to give up the cigarettes. As a dental therapist, she begins by asking her patients four questions:

1. Do you really want to give up smoking?

2. Why do you want to give up smoking?

3. What do you love about smoking?

4. How would you feel if you achieved a non-smoking status?

She explains: 'By opening up the dialogue, it allows for further understanding and discussion around stopping smoking. Then, we discuss the options. For example, if they would be open to reading a book, such as Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr, or if they would wish to be referred to an acupuncturist or smoking cessation advisor. If we can book the appointment there and then, we do.'

Top tip 3. Madalyne Tucker has a very relaxed approach to helping smokers quit, which, in her experience, has been hugely successful. She explains: 'I advise smokers to look at quitting as a "work in progress". Research suggests that most people take five attempts before success, so they should not beat themselves up for failing; it's a starting point to improve on next time. But the important message is "don't quit quitting!"'

Top tip 4. Dental therapist Jacky Hart says that one psychological piece of advice she offers patients who wish to quit is to avoid announcing to everyone: "I've given up smoking!" She says: 'Tell yourself: "I'm just not going to have a cigarette today". Then say the same the next day… and the next… and, hopefully, the next! It was how my husband coped in the early days of not smoking - and he stopped more than 21 years ago.'

Top tip 5. Interestingly, Liverpool-based dental therapist Debbie McGovern has the opposite approach and believes in setting a date to stop and sticking to it. She says: 'No Smoking Day is ideal! Tell your family and friends you are trying to quit - ask them to stop with you or support you. Find a support programme if needs be and don't be discouraged. Quitting often takes several tries before you succeed.'


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