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.