Trips to the dentist can be a traumatic experience for many of us.
Although dentistry has moved on leaps and bounds in the last decade, it still conjures up images of a Victorian dentist armed with a big drill and no anaesthetic for plenty of people. Brits are often known as having bad teeth, and it looks like we really are living up to this stereotype.
In fact, for some people this fear is so strong, they abstain from visiting the dentist completely. Karen Coates, a dental advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), said for some their phobia is so bad “they haven’t seen a dentist for years. It’s common for us to hear from someone in their twenties or thirties who hasn’t been to the dentist since childhood”.
British Dental Health Foundation Survey
A BDHF survey revealed an even more staggering figure: over 2 million people have taken time off work due to poor oral health, which equates to 7% of the UK workforce over the last 5 years. Few employers are fully aware of just what a devastating impact that toothache and a lack of oral hygiene has on the economy. This can have a particularly acute impact on SMEs, where one employee’s absence can make a real difference.
The data also reveals the soaring cost of dentistry, with the UK spending £5.8billion annually on dental treatments alone. Although NHS dentists do exist, there are some procedures they will not cover (e.g. tooth implants) leaving you with the choice of either going private or doing nothing about it at all. At a cost of over £1,000 per tooth, some people may even put themselves into debt just by trying to reverse the effects from a lifetime of poor dental hygiene. Often there is a long waiting list to be seen by an NHS dentist too.
However, it is hard to feel too much sympathy for the 25% of adults who have not visited a dentist during the last 2 years, who may be part of the same 25% of adults who admit to not brushing their teeth twice a day! Perhaps even worse still are the 2% of the UK population who have NEVER visited a dentist before at all. It seems that for many, a bad childhood experience at the dentist can have a lasting experience all the way through their life, which could explain why the average British adult has 7 fillings!
Conditions Associated with Dental Health
The fact you get fillings as a result of not brushing your teeth should not be news to anyone, but there are far more health problems linked to poor oral hygiene than you may think. A toothache left untreated could end up having some serious implications. Here are just some of the illnesses and ailments which are directly linked to bad oral health:
- Heart Disease – numerous dentists have argued that gum disease is often a pre-cursor to heart disease.
- Stroke Risk – as above, plaque enters the blood stream due to gum disease, and can clot arteries in the brain, leading to stroke.
- Dementia – people with dementia forget about oral health, which leads to further deterioration of health in other areas.
- Respiratory Problems – bacteria and plaque can inflame breathing airways. And let’s not forget about bad breath.
- Diabetes – Oral infections such as gingivitis and gum disease can spread much more easily among diabetics.
- Erectile Dysfunction – men with chronic periodontal disease (CPD) have damaged endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels (where it matters).
- Premature Birth – tooth and gum disease has also been linked to early child birth, due to an increase in the production of prostaglandin, a hormone which can induce labour.
- Female Fertility – woman with gum disease take an average of 2 months longer to fall pregnant than those without.
- Pancreatic Cancer – significant associations between the antibodies of oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer were discovered in a study by the journal Gut.
- Kidney Disease – medical research has also documented a link between periodontal disease and kidney disease, suggesting there is a connection between the two.
This list is not intended to frighten you, but to illustrate just how serious the impact of untreated tooth problems can be. A toothache alone will affect productivity, cause headaches and can affect someone’s behaviour at work. As an employer, it can end up affecting your company’s productivity as a whole, and as Nigel Carter from the BDHF says, it is “an important factor in a healthy workforce”.
Dental insurance can be built into a company’s benefits scheme, and can greatly improve retention, decrease absenteeism from tooth ache and keep people smiling for longer. Companies such as Elect Employee Benefits offer group dental insurance as part of their complete employee benefits solution.
Oral Health Foundation – https://www.dentalhealth.org
Word of Mouth Issue 12 – https://www.dentalhealth.org/uploads/download/resourcefiles/download_201_1_WordofMouth%20October’13.pdf
Colgate Oral Health – https://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/