Less than half of UK’s workers (43%) is allowed to take paid time off work to visit their dentist.
The situation is even worse for parents, with just around one in four workers allowed to take paid time off work to take their children to the dentist.
The survey, undertaken by the British Dental Health Foundation, also found that less than one in 10 workers (7%) received occupational health information from their employers about the importance of maintaining good oral health.
The Foundation estimates that two million people have taken sick time off work due to poor oral health over the past five years.
The latest government statistics indicate:
• Around a third of adults (31%) continue to have tooth decay
• Over four fifths have at least one filling (84%)
• Three in every ten people suffer from regular dental pain.
The survey also found that 13% of workers took time off without pay to visit their dentist and nearly three in every ten people (29%) took holiday or visited the dentist in their own time.
Approaching two thirds (62%) of parents said they either took unpaid leave or holiday to take their children to the dentist.
The findings have been published as part of National Smile Month 2012, which runs from 20 May to 20 June 2012, and is the UK’s biggest annual reminder to look after their oral health.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘Our findings highlight the problems that many people face to find time to visit their dentist on a regular basis and the low level of importance that many employers give to encouraging their workforce to maintain good oral health.
‘Significant numbers of people are forced to miss work each year unnecessarily due to avoidable poor oral health. What many employers won’t realise is that poor oral health is increasingly being linked to other more serious medical conditions such as diabetes, strokes and heart problems, which cause even greater difficulties for absenteeism.
‘Time and money are clearly barriers to improving oral health – especially during the economic downturn, but we hope more employers will take another look at their occupational health and general welfare policies during National Smile Month and give a greater priority to oral health.’