Healthcare providers, particularly dentists, frequently miss opportunities to advise patients about ways to stop smoking cigarettes, a new study shows.

Since 1996, the US Public Health Service has been urging all healthcare workers to ask every one of their patients if they smoke and to counsel smokers to quit, said senior author Amy Ferketich, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Public Health in Columbus.

But when she and her colleagues analyzed survey data from 2010, they found that less than 12% of smokers who visited a dental worker and only half of smokers who saw a doctor reported receiving guidance about how to break the habit.

Researchers analyzed 2010 National Health Interview Survey data from 3,612 smokers who had visited a healthcare provider within the prior 12 months.

The study found that only 50.7% of smokers who saw a physician said the doctor counseled them to quit.

Dentists scored far worse. Just 11.8% of smokers who saw a dentist or dental hygienist reported receiving advice on how to stop.