Workplace absenteeism impacted by poor oral health

Brushing twice a day and snacking less and she wouldn't feel like this.

The British Dental Health Foundation, the UK’s leading independent oral health charity, is urging the UK workforce to consider how their daily routine could be affecting their oral health.

Official figures indicate that around 18,000 people in the UK missed work in the final quarter of last year due to mouth and dental problems, which is categorised along with eye, ear, and nose problems by the Office of National Statistics. The data also suggests that women are almost twice as likely as men to take time off work and overall, this category of absenteeism accounts for more time off work than heart and circulation problems.

Sick days cost the economy around £32bn, and the Foundation believes should the quarters figures be replicated throughout the year, developing a good oral hygiene routine could reduce the need for un-necessary time off work. The Foundation recommends brushing for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist, as often as they recommend, to form the basis of a good routine.

The Foundation also believes that current eating habits during the working day are contributing to poor oral health, especially the levels of snacking and grazing. Foundation chief executive Dr Nigel Carter highlights some of the ways in which people can care for their oral health while at work.

Dr Carter said: “Grazing has become something of a regular occurrence in the last few years, yet many people do not know what effect it is having on their teeth. So-called “snack attacks” often consist of foods containing sugar, and even grazing on large amounts of fruit can have an effect, as fruit does contain acids which can erode your teeth. However, this is only damaging to your teeth if you eat an unusually large amount.

“It is wholly better if you stick to three square meals a day, but if you do snack, select savoury snacks such as cheese, nuts, breadsticks and raw vegetables. Water is an excellent alternative to sugary drinks in order to keep hydrated. If this isn’t possible, chew on sugar free gum containing Xylitol to help reduce tooth decay afterwards.

“Remember, the main point to remember here is that it is not the amount of sugar you eat or drink, but how often you do it. So if you’re grazing on sugary foods and drinks for eight hours a day five days a week, you stand a high chance of developing poor oral health.”


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  1. Brushing for two minutes twice a day is well-intentioned advice but fails to recognise that ineffective brushing is sadly normal and statistically more likely to be destructive than beneficial. Explanation of brushing as compensation for lack of chewing allows some understanding of why brushing must imitate the chewing action. Effective education demands that a rational explanation be part of our advice.


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