Oral health problems such as toothache are costing the UK economy more than £105 million each year in sick days, according to new research.
The poll, commissioned as part of National Smile Month, discovered that around one in 20 working Brits have been forced to take time off work in the last year due to oral health problems.
The Oral Health Foundation estimates that more than 1.2 million days of work have been missed in the last year, with one day of absenteeism costing an average of £82.86 to the economy, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
To mark the start of National Smile Month, an initiative that aims to encourage good oral health, the Oral Health Foundation, is challenging workplaces across the UK to take more of an invested interest in their employees’ health while asking the UK’s workforce to think about their oral health habits both at work and at home.
Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, says: ‘Bad habits such as irregular brushing and sugary diets are contributing to around three in every ten UK adults suffering regular dental pain and tooth decay. It is therefore inevitable that significant numbers of people are taking sick days off work and damaging the productivity of the UK economy.
‘One of the major problems we are continually faced with at work is an excess of sugar, and a snacking culture has become commonplace. Cake culture and unhealthy options of high sugar foods and drinks in vending machines and canteens are not only contributing to oral health problems but major issues with health overall, with increased levels of diabetes and obesity.
‘By increasing education about sugar and supplying employees with healthier alternatives, there is an excellent opportunity that would benefit both employers and employees.
‘An unhealthy workplace – physically and mentally – normally equals time off work and lost productivity. Thousands of people miss work because of their oral health. Frustratingly, these problems are often completely preventable.’
During National Smile Month, the charity is trying to get more people to realise that maintaining a good oral health routine is quite simple and by getting the basics right we can avoid most oral health problems and the pain and discomfort that comes with them.
‘We urge everybody to adopt three relatively simple steps in order to look after your oral health,’ adds Dr Carter.
‘By brushing our teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend, we can develop and maintain great oral health.
‘It’s also important to remember that poor oral health is not just about toothache and decay. It has a much wider impact on general bodily health than you may think. Research over the past decade has revealed growing evidence linking poor oral health to serious health conditions, which account for many more days off work.’
In recent years, poor oral health has been proven to have very close links to such diseases like heart disease, diabetes, problems during pregnancy and dementia.
Dr Carter says: ‘More than 1.2 million sick days is an incredible amount but it’s not so much the cost to the economy that we are concerned about, it is the needless suffering and pain that many are experiencing that we want to try and put a stop to.
‘Too often our oral health takes a backseat when we think about our oral health and wellbeing. This simply shouldn’t be the case. National Smile Month is all about re-engaging the nation about the importance of a healthy mouth and the benefits our smile can have.’
Visit the campaign website at www.smilemonth.org for tips and advice about how to improve oral health.