Oral health problems cost the United Kingdom more than £105 million ($135.5 million) in sick days each year, says the Oral Health Foundation. Its poll, commissioned as part of National Smile Month, also found that about one in 20 workers have been forced to take time off work in the last year due to oral health problems—that’s more than 1.2 million days off, with each sick day costing the economy an average of £82.86 ($106.94).
“Bad habits such as irregular brushing and sugary diets are contributing to around 3 in every 10 United Kingdom adults suffering regular 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,” said Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, which is now asking employers and employees alike to do more to improve their oral health.
“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,” Carter said.
“By increasing education about sugar and supplying employees with healthier alternatives, there is an excellent opportunity that would benefit both employers and employees,” Carter said. “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.”
The National Smile Month campaign encourages people to maintain positive oral health routines, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, cutting back on sugary foods and drinks, and regular visits to the dentist. Doing so not only prevents the pain of tooth decay, it also benefits overall health, as the Oral Health Foundation notes that poor overall health has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, problems during pregnancy, and dementia.
“Too often our oral health takes a backseat when we think about our health and wellbeing. This simply shouldn’t be the case,” said Carter. “National Smile Month is all about re-engaging the nation about the importance of a healthy mouth and the benefits our smile can have.”