Why Good Oral Hygiene Is Important & Why Many UK Adults Are Not Doing Enough

In Employee Benefits, Healthcare, Industry News by Raina Dhillon

Most people know that poor oral health can lead to cavities, toothache and halitosis (bad breath). But did you know that poor dental care can also result in a number of much more serious health problems?

For example, gum disease is linked to a number of other health problems in different parts of the body, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease – bacteria from inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream and cause hardening of the arteries, increasing a person’s risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Dementia – bacteria associated with gingivitis (a form of gum disease) can enter the brain through nerve channels, which may lead to Alzheimer’s.
  • Respiratory infections – gum disease can also lead to pneumonia and other types of respiratory infections.
  • Diabetes – inflamed gums can lead to difficulties controlling blood sugar and exacerbate diabetes symptoms.

All of these potential health problems (and more) are why taking proper care of your teeth and gums is so important.

But, sadly, many UK adults do not take proper care of their teeth and gums.

A quarter of adults do not brush twice a day

According to Simplyhealth’s Consumer Oral Health survey, 40% of employees had to take time off in the last year to have emergency dental treatment. The time off for appointments amounted to around 7.5 hours (almost a full working day).

Furthermore, employees aren’t just taking time off for their own dental appointments. More than half (55%) have had to take time off from work to attend an emergency dental appointment with their child or children. While not quite as much time was taken off for such appointments, 7.1 hours, on average, was still lost.

Perhaps most alarming is the survey’s finding that more than a quarter of UK adults do not brush their teeth at least twice a day, as recommended by dental professionals. Moreover, a third (33%) never floss their teeth.

What’s even more revealing is that while 75% of respondents agreed that poor oral health can negatively impact their general health, only 20% said they knew it was also linked to heart disease and 13% said it is associated with diabetes.

Employers can make a difference

Speaking about the findings of the research, Pam Whelan, director of corporate at Simplyhealth, said: “Suffering with a dental emergency, such as toothache or cracked tooth, can be incredibly painful and when employees are not feeling their best, they won’t be able to perform at their best in work. The health of your teeth and gums can have a significant impact on overall wellbeing, so it’s important to look after your oral health.”

Employers can play a supporting role when it comes to their employee’s oral health by offering dental payment plans as an employee benefit. Such plans make it easy for employees to get dental treatment, regardless of whether they receive it via the NHS or privately.

With access to dental care provided quickly, employees can take proactive steps to ensure their oral health remains good. This not only benefits them by reducing the likelihood of various health conditions, but also their employers in the form of reduced absence.

I have over 15 years client facing experience in the Employee Benefits industry having worked for Mercer HR Consulting and The Willis Group in London. Bringing my expertise to mid and large corporate clients, I joined Premier Choice Healthcare in December 2015, with the aim of advising and developing a varied Corporate client portfolio.