Web-Based Information on the Treatment of Tobacco Dependence for Oral Health Professionals: Analysis of English-Written Websites

J Med Internet Res. 2017 Oct 20;19(10):e349. doi: 10.2196/jmir.8174.


Background: Studies have been conducted on the content and quality of Web-based information for patients who are interested in smoking cessation advice and for health care practitioners regarding the content of e-learning programs about tobacco cessation. However, to the best of our knowledge, there is no such information about the quality of Web-based learning resources regarding smoking cessation dedicated to oral health professionals.

Objective: The aim of this study was to identify and evaluate the quality of the content of webpages providing information about smoking cessation for oral health care professionals.

Methods: Websites were identified using Google and Health on Net (HON) search engines using the terms: smoking cessation OR quit smoking OR stop smoking OR 3As OR 5As OR tobacco counselling AND dentistry OR dental clinic OR dentist OR dental hygienist OR oral health professionals. The first 100 consecutive results of the 2 search engines were considered for the study. Quality assessment was rated using the DISCERN questionnaire, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmarks, and the HON seal. In addition, smoking cessation content on each site was assessed using an abbreviated version of the Smoke Treatment Scale (STS-C) and the Smoking Treatment Scale-Rating (STS-R). To assess legibility of the selected websites, the Flesch Reading Ease (FRES) and the Flesch-Kinkaid Reading Grade Level (FKRGL) were used. Websites were also classified into multimedia and nonmultimedia and friendly and nonfriendly usability.

Results: Of the first 200 sites selected (100 of Google and 100 of HON), only 11 met the inclusion criteria and mainly belonged to governmental institutions (n=8), with the others being prepared by Professional Associations (n=2) and nonprofit organizations (n=1). Only 3 were exclusively dedicated to smoking cessation. The average score obtained with the DISCERN was 3.0, and the average score in the FKRGL and FRES was 13.31 (standard deviation, SD 3.34) and 40.73 (SD 15.46), respectively. Of the 11 websites evaluated, none achieved all the four JAMA benchmarks. The mean score of STS-R among all the websites was 2.81 (SD 0.95) out of 5. A significant strong positive correlation was obtained between the DISCERN mean values and the STS-R (R=.89, P=.01).

Conclusions: The mean quality of webpages with information for oral health care professionals about smoking cessation is low and displayed a high heterogeneity. These webpages are also difficult to read and often lack multimedia resources, which further limits their usefulness.

Keywords: Internet; dentistry; education, continuing; general practice; tobacco use cessation.

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Humans
  • Internet* / standards
  • Language*
  • Oral Health / education*
  • Oral Health / standards
  • Reading
  • Search Engine
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*