Date Published: 28 October 2005

Ten minute test at the dentist helps smokers to quit

Providing smokers with personalised analysis of the quantity of nicotine in their bodies could help their battle to stop smoking.

Research conducted at the Birmingham University (West Midlands, England) and recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has found that showing smokers the results of a nicotine test as part of a dental examination improved quit rates by 17%.

The study followed 100 smokers visiting a London dental practice over a period of eight weeks. The participants were shown the results of the Smokescreen test, which measures nicotine intake over the previous three days. The test, developed at Birmingham University provides a result in ten minutes. The participants were also told about the oral health risks associated with smoking including periodontal (gum) disease, and increased rates of mouth cancer.

After eight weeks, 23% of those who had seen the Smokescreen test in the surgery had quit, compared to only 7% of the control group. The number of patients, who had reduced their levels of cigarette use, was also more than twice as high for those who received the nicotine test.

Dr Graham Cope who developed the test said:

" Giving doctors and dentists access to this ten minute test helps them identify whether smokers are taking the health professional's advice to quit. From a patient's point of view, it seems that the personal nature of visualising nicotine break down products in their own saliva creates a powerful motivational tool to help them quit."

Dr Kit Barnfather, now at the Leeds University (West Yorkshire, England), who conducted the research and the clinical work said:

" Smokers often under-report their cigarette consumption. The identification, evaluation through testing and counselling of every tobacco user should become standard practice for all health care professionals. Smokers must be informed of the widespread damage their habit causes."

The SmokeScreen test was developed at Birmingham University in England. It uses a small amount of saliva, which is mixed with specific chemicals in the device to measure nicotine, and all the other breakdown products of tobacco. If the saliva is from a smoker the sample will turn yellow in a few minutes, the heavier the smoker, the darker the colour.

Professor Iain Chapple, from the University of Birmingham School of Dentistry, who developed the saliva-based test with Dr Cope said:

" Smoking is the most important modifiable risk factor for gum disease and oral cancer, which has increased in prevalence by 17% in the last 4 years. Dentists see healthy young patients, who often don't attend their doctors regularly. As nearly a third of people start smoking before the age of 15, a dental team is a valuable resource to help young smokers to quit."

Source: Birmingham University, England (UK).

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