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Great American Smokeout is Nov. 21

Nov. 21 is the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout observance, and dentists can use the annual observance as a teaching opportunity for their patients.

"Dentists are uniquely positioned to provide education to their patients on how smoking affects overall health, but also how it has serious affects on their oral health," said Dr. Scott Tomar, professor in the Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science at the University of Florida College of Dentistry.

"Most patients know that smoking raises the risk of lung cancer or other diseases, but they may not realize that it is related to periodontitis, oral cancer, and poor prognosis for implants and periodontal treatment. Helping patients quit smoking is one of the most effective ways to help them improve their oral health."

Dr. Tomar, a consultant to the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations and the Council on Scientific Affairs, stressed that almost 50 years since the first U.S. surgeon general's report on smoking and health in 1964, 1 in 5 Americans still smokes.

"Dentists can also help intervene, as 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit," he said. "The annual Great American Smokeout is a reminder to us to help identify those who are interested in attempting to quit smoking and catch them at a time when they are ready to try."

Offering patients resources, such as quit line information or other education tools, or even offering information on local tobacco cessation classes are a natural extension to educating them on the risks and dangers of smoking, he added.

The ACS marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.

According to the ACS, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S. As of 2010, there were 13.2 million cigar smokers and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes.

The ACS notes that research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have resources like smoking-cessation hotlines, stop-smoking groups, online quit groups, counseling, nicotine replacement products, prescription medicine to lessen cravings, guide books and encouragement and support from friends and family members.

And when smokers use two or more of these resources, they have an even better chance of quitting.

Telephone stop-smoking hotlines are available in all 50 states. Smokers can call the ACS at 1-800-227-2345 to find telephone counseling or other support in their area.

Each year, observance also draws attention to the deaths and chronic diseases caused by smoking. Smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 3 cancer deaths, and 1 in 5 deaths from all causes. Another 8.6 million people live with serious illnesses caused by smoking.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. About 87 percent of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. Smoking also causes cancers of the larynx, mouth, pharynx, esophagus and bladder.

It also has been linked to the development of cancers of the pancreas, cervix, ovary, colon/rectum, kidney, stomach and some types of leukemia.

Visit www.cancer.org to learn more about quitting smoking, improving your health, tools for quitting or getting involved with a Great American Smokeout event in your community.

The ADA's consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, also features several MouthHealthy Moment videos on the dangers of tobacco use, dental health implications and more.