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We’re spending more time at work than ever before, in fact 2016 has shown that two thirds of us are working more hours per week than in 2015. As the issue of employee wellbeing rises up the corporate agenda, interest in health-related benefits is more important than ever.  Employers are feeling increasing pressure to support the health of their staff. This is due to the link of employee wellbeing and commercial success. In a recent Edenred study it was discovered that 97% of employers agreed that good health of employees drives the business.

One way in which our health is suffering in 2016 is through a lackadaisical approach to oral hygiene, in fact, a quarter of Brits do not brush the recommended amount of twice per day. Are longer commutes and longer hours paired with the 21st century diet the reason the health of the nation is being neglected?

In the last ten years there’s been a flood of research linking poor oral health to far more serious health issues. This is not a new notion however, since the days of Hippocrates society have been having their teeth pulled in an attempt to cure various ailments.

Today the research shows inflammation to be the link between poor oral health and associated conditions. Chronic inflammation of the mouth is damaging to cells and the DNA they contain. Francis Hughes, professor of periodontology at King’s College London explains:

“Inflammation seems to be associated with far more diseases than we’ve traditionally thought,”

Gum disease leads to the seal of the tooth becoming loose, each time you brush bacteria is pushed further into the body and inflammation is triggered.

Dental Care and the Workplace

Today there is simply less money in the NHS kitty for dental care, this has led to a knock-on effect to employees and their families with £36.6million lost to businesses across the UK in 2013 due to staff taking time off for dental problems. Currently only 33% of employees consider themselves to have good oral health, and almost a quarter are concerned about their dental health.

Suffering with Poor Oral Health

Those who suffer from poor oral health don’t just run the risk of developing serious health problems, but with tooth decay and subsequent tooth loss can come crippling self-confidence This lack of confidence is seen to have a detrimental impact on people’s careers; in a study by the British Dental Association it was discovered that:

• 62% of those asked felt that people with visibly decayed teeth, missing teeth or bad breath may miss out on a job over those who were not suffering.
• 6 in 10 believe tooth decay could hinder their promotion prospects.

Jamie Newlands of an award winning dental implant practice in Glasgow explains how poor oral health impacts on his patients’ lives:

“My patients visit with their confidence shaken due to severe decay but have avoided check-ups and treatment due to the perceived cost. A subsidised service would encourage patients to seek help before health and wellbeing problems escalate”

Employees need Dental Discounts

In a survey undertaken by Munroe Sutton the majority (57%) of participants revealed they would visit the dentist twice a year if they had help with their dental costs. Employers are being urged to offer financial support to their staff in a bid to restore the oral health of the nation. The participants were willing to pay £15 a month towards a personal dental plan and £20 a month for a plan that included their families. Nearly half of all participants felt their plans would have more value if savings on treatment was included.

The survey showed the main actions employees are looking for are:

• Voluntary dental plans
• Time off to visit the dentist
• Elective cosmetic treatment
• Family cover
• Ease of finding a dentist

Public Health is a Priority

Introducing increased benefits to assist with the health of employees is due to the danger that if nothing is done the consequences could be extremely damaging to the nation. Currently, dental treatment is not being undertaken when needed and future complications could be more damaging to the the NHS, employers and employees than if immediate action was taken. Reports show that investing in employee health contributes positively to employee’s brand perception, increases staff’s commitment and reduces turnover.

Since 2012 there has been an increase of 30% of employee/employer funded cash plans but there is still a long way to go.  If there is one clear message from these studies it’s that employers are in need of greater dental health support from their employees.

About the author: Suzanne Vallance is a representative for the Berkeley Clinic, a cosmetic dental practice in Glasgow.