Influence of continuing education on dental hygienists' knowledge and behavior related to oral cancer screening and tobacco cessation


There are more than 35,000 new cases of oral and pharyngeal cancers (OPC) diagnosed each year. Most OPCs are diagnosed in advanced stages, requiring aggressive treatment and resulting in higher morbidity and mortality than when diagnosed early. The overall 5 year survival rate of OPC is about 60%. Early detection of OPC lesions are the key to survival. A major risk factor for OPC is chronic tobacco use. The purpose of this paper is to report changes in dental hygienists' knowledge, attitudes and behaviors 6 months after attending a standardized lecture format continuing education (CE) course on early OPC detection and tobacco cessation counseling compared to baseline values.
A total of 64 CE courses were given for dental professionals throughout the 10 U.S. public health districts to determine if OPC screenings and tobacco cessation counseling behaviors could be modified at 6 months post-training. Questionnaires were obtained at baseline and 6 months later using a pre-/post-test design.
A total of 1,463 dental hygienists participated at baseline and 543 at a 6 month follow-up. Data showed a significant difference in knowledge and behavior compared to baseline values.
CE appeared to have a significant influence on participants' OPC and tobacco cessation knowledge and behavior, and could potentially make a difference on prevention, early detection and ultimately on OPC control.

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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe oral mucosal screening and referral attitudes of Australian oral health therapists (OHTs) and dental hygienists (DHs). Methods: Questionnaires were distributed to participants who attended dental hygiene courses run in both regional and metropolitan Queensland. Results: One hundred and two participants comprised 58 OHTs and 44 DHs, with a mean of 8.9 years since graduation. Thirty-four participants worked in regional locations, while 68 were from metropolitan areas. 97% of participants agreed that mucosal screening should be performed for all new and recall patients, while a minority (5%) agreed that patients will detect an oral mucosal change themselves. The majority (77%) agreed that oral cancer would be encountered in their practising career. Most participants (81%) felt comfortable discussing the presence of a suspicious lesion with patients and 88% agreed that it was their role to screen. In terms of barriers to oral cancer screening, lack of training was seen as the most prevalent barrier (56%) followed by lack of confidence (51%). Lack of time was seen as the third most prevalent barrier (40%), and lack of financial incentives was the least prevalent barrier (16%). Conclusions: Oral health therapists and DHs understand the importance of oral mucosal screening and are likely to be alert to oral mucosal changes. While lack of time and financial incentives was perceived to be impediments to mucosal screening, lack of confidence and training was the most prevalent barriers. This issue should be addressed through implementation of effective continuing education courses targeting oral cancer screening and referral practices.
    International Journal of Dental Hygiene 08/2014; 13(3). DOI:10.1111/idh.12103 · 1.06 Impact Factor