Why employers should play their part in the oral health of their employees

Leading oral health charity The British Dental Health Foundation recently announced a change to their identity to the Oral Health Foundation, with a tagline of ‘Better oral health for all’, demonstrating the growing importance and emphasis being placed on oral health and the effects it has on people throughout the world.

oral health

Dr Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for England, has also recently outlined an oral health strategy, stating that NHS dental contract reform was ‘critical’  to making the journey from dental treatment to oral health. Interestingly, there is also a growing amount of research showing the close links between oral health and general health.

Highlighting the benefits of good oral health

With this in mind, there is no time like the present to highlight some of the reasons why it’s important for your employees to visit the dentist regularly – something they should be encouraged to do, even more so if their employer provides dental benefits.

As a tangible and usable benefit (77% of UK adults visit the dentist on a regular basis for a routine check-up at least once every two years according to Denplan/YouGov Survey January 2016), not everyone may realise that a visit to the dentist is an essential part of taking care of not only their oral health, but also their general wellbeing. 

Here are some interesting facts you might want to share with your workforce on the importance of maintaining their oral health.

Don’t miss that regular dental check-up!

Dental check-ups are the health appointments that people avoid the most, with over a third (34%), admitting to missing their regular dental appointment. In contrast, just 6% of people admit to missing a GP appointment according to a Denplan oral health survey, conducted by OnePoll in March. 

Providing employees with a regular oral health assessment (through their dental plan benefits) should help your employees keep their teeth healthy and clean to maintain good oral health.

At a check-up the dentist will usually assess a patient’s current oral health, any risk of future disease, and advise them on the care and treatment required to secure good oral health.

The mouth is the gateway to the body

Research suggests that more and more general health issues are linked to a person’s oral health. For example, in some cases, gum disease is thought to be related to medical conditions such as cardiovascular problems, lung disease, diabetes and even bowel cancer.

Scientists from the University of Birmingham have recently published new research linking gum disease to kidney disease. Their research revealed that patients with chronic kidney disease and severe gum disease have a higher mortality rate than those with chronic kidney disease alone.

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth, caused mainly by bacteria which results from plaque build-up. If the plaque isn’t effectively removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria can irritate the gums causing swelling, bleeding and soreness.

Prevention is better than cure

Dental practioners can diagnose gum disease but can also help patients to treat the condition and prevent it from re-occuring. What’s more, while routine dental checks cannot diagnose a systemic disease, they can help patients to be aware of their risk of developing inflammation in the body so that, if necessary, they can seek medical guidance and take preventative action. 

In some patients who are susceptible to gum disease, the body overreacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. If this doesn’t clear up properly it can lead to inflammation throughout the body which can be an underlying issue in diseases such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

When asked if people would want their dentist to tell them if they thought their oral health could affect their risk of developing a condition elsewhere in the body, a staggering 60% of patients in the Denplan oral health survey said they would want their dentist to tell them if they thought their oral health could increase their risk of strokes, diabetes, cardiac conditions, respiratory disease and kidney disease.

While some might say the responsibility is ultimately down to individuals to look after their oral health, it is arguable that employers have a role to play in communicating the importance of good oral health to their employees too – especially when you consider the impact good oral health and dental hygiene could have on their overall health and wellbeing.

This article was provided by Denplan.

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