Dr Nigel Carter: Employers can help raise awareness of oral health among staff

Nigel Carter

An unhealthy workplace, physically and mentally, normally equals time off work and lost productivity. Thousands of people miss work because of their oral health every year.

Frustratingly, most problems with teeth and gums are preventable with a good oral health routine. Despite this, research conducted by the Oral Health Foundation in 2013 found that around 7% of the UK’s 29 million-strong workforce have called in sick with teeth problems at least once in the past five years. Staggeringly, this means that poor oral health costs the UK economy around £36m every year.

However, poor oral health is not just about toothache and decay. It has a much wider impact on general bodily health than one may think. Research over the past decade has revealed growing evidence linking poor oral health to serious health conditions, including heightened risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, all of which account for many more days off work.

There are many simple and effective ways to help raise awareness of oral health among staff and prevent problems such as these. One of the simplest is to make leaflets and other information available around a workplace, these can be reminders about tooth brushing, visiting the dentist or even the relationship between smoking and oral health.

Employers can also ensure they allow people time off to have regular dental check-ups or even arrange dental visits from local dental teams to help educate employees on the importance of good oral health. Some workplaces also offer benefits such as dental plans.

Workplaces are encouraged to get involved in campaigns such as National Smile Month, which helps spread important oral health messages by getting people actively engaged in fun activities. These can also be very effective in spreading messages to employees’ family and friends.

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If an employee is concerned about their oral health, employers can help them by passing on details about the Oral Health Foundations’ free and independent Dental Helpline service, which can offer advice and information on many aspects of oral health.

Dr Nigel Carter is chief executive officer at the Oral Health Foundation