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WVU School of Dentistry to lead fight against oral cancer and tobacco addiction

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Dr. Susan Morgan collaborates with WVU School of Dentistry students Mannhu Iglesias and Andrew Marra after a morning of work in the student clinic.
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The West Virginia University School of Dentistry is now one of 18 education and health institutions to receive accreditation to implement a certified, multi-faceted program to stop tobacco use and reduce instances of oral cancer.

The Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs is the accrediting body for Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training Programs. 

Susan Morgan, DDS, approached CTTTP with the goal of training not only dental professionals, but myriad healthcare providers, to initiate a program designed to reduce tobacco use in a state where, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 4,240 deaths between 2009 and 2013 could be attributed to diseases and complications developed from smoking.

Morgan, a faculty member at WVU, has been working since 2000 to prepare dentists who can help patients end dependency on nicotine.

“The number one risk factor for periodontal disease is smoking, and tobacco is the number one link to oral cancer,” Morgan said.

In 2016, according to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings annual report, more than a quarter of the state’s adults (25.7%) smoke ranking West Virginia 49th in the country. The report ranked the high prevalence of smoking is one of the top three challenges in the state.

Working in cooperation with the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center Office of Interprofessional Education, representatives from the WVU School of Pharmacy, School of Public Health, School of Nursing, School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, WVU Cancer Institute and others will be involved in the WVU tobacco treatment training program. “It’s going to reach out to all healthcare providers who deal with a population of tobacco users. The program teaches participants evidence-based means of treatment that are known to work.”

Morgan said healthcare providers can be uncomfortable recommending simultaneous use of multiple treatments for tobacco and nicotine dependency; however, in 2013 the Federal Drug Administration published information indicating combination pharmacotherapy is extremely important and effective in helping tobacco users quit.

Through the tobacco treatment program, set to begin in 2018, participants will learn the science of addiction and its side effects along with best practices for treatment. The trained healthcare professionals will become certified information providers on risks and consequences of tobacco use.

The interprofessional initiative is designed to help those health care providers develop individual treatment plans – with evidence based solutions to quit – using a combination of medicine and behavior therapy for nicotine addicted patients.

“If this is going to work, we’ve all got to work together. I‘ve got to be able to call a pharmacist and say I want this patient on a combination of cessation medications,” Morgan added.

Following the September announcement of accreditation, the 26-member team developed by the School of Dentistry and IPE can move forward with providing certified tobacco treatment specialist training.

-WVU-

ssw/10/04/17

CONTACT: Sunshine Wiles-Gidley
School of Dentistry, Communications Specialist
304.293.6144 or 304.441.4277; sunshine.wiles@hsc.wvu.edu

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