Purpose: Tobacco use is a major risk factor in oral and systemic diseases. Current national guidelines outline activities that positively contribute towards tobacco cessation. Little is known about dental hygienists role in tobacco cessation activities. This study investigates dental hygienists performance of tobacco cessation activities in the dental surgery and explores factors associated with this performance. Materials and Methods: Dental hygienists in south-east England on the register of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy completed a postal questionnaire survey in 2008. Results: A total of 439 (61%) questionnaires were returned, representing both part-time (66.7%) and full-time (33.3%) hygienists working in the private (69.5%) and non-private sectors (30.5%). Most hygienists recorded positive attitudes towards tobacco cessation. Overall, 162 (41.9%) reported performing four or more tobacco cessation activities. The less-commonly performed activities indicated to patients the value of attending NHS Stop Smoking Services for specialised help, with hygienists referring patients to the NHS Stop Smoking Services and offering assistance to those who do not wish to attend NHS stop Smoking Services. Higher reported numbers of tobacco cessation activities performed were statistically significantly associated with a higher number of positive attitudes held (P = 0.004), while socio-demographic and professional attributes were not. Conclusion: Tobacco cessation activities, as recommended by national guidelines, are not always performed by dental hygienists. Efforts are needed to promote the dental hygienists role in tobacco cessation, especially in relation to referring patients to NHS Stop Smoking services. These efforts should focus on changing the attitudes of dental hygienists, especially on their effectiveness in promoting tobacco cessation.
Keywords: attitudes, dental hygienist, tobacco cessation activities