In honour of National Smile Month, FirstCare took the opportunity to review the impact of Dental/Oral health on absence levels, with some surprising results.

Since launching our service in 2005, FirstCare have recorded almost 20,000 absences due to Dental/Oral Problems, which puts us in the ideal position to analyse and interpret some of the key trends when it comes to Dental/Oral Problem related absence, examples of which are provided below.

Dental/Oral absence is 41% higher amongst men than women.

A potential explanation for the greater levels of Dental/Oral Problem absence amongst men can be found in surveys and studies by the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Association, who found that:

The general consensus amongst Dental professionals is that men are less likely than women to seek preventive dental care and often neglect their oral health for years, visiting a dentist only when a problem arises.

Dental/Oral Problem absences often last longer than other traditional 'Short Term Absences'

When most HR teams and line managers think of short term absence, and the need to tackle the reasons behind it, most concentrate their efforts on headaches, migraines, mild gastrointestinal issues and coughs and colds. However, the average length of a Dental/Oral Problem absence in fact lasts longer than any of these other traditional short term absence reasons.

It's recommended therefore that organisations identify opportunities to raise awareness about the importance of regular dental hygiene throughout their workforce. Therefore, in honour of National Smile Month, provided below are some tips on Oral health that we recommend sharing with your employees.

Tips for a Healthy Smile and Lower Absence Rate

Our Nursing Team has pulled together the tips below, which we encourage organisations to circulate amongst their employees:

1. Brush your teeth regularly

The general rule of thumb is to brush your teeth for two minutes two times a day, using fluoride toothpaste. Doing so can help eliminate plaque and protect against gum disease, tooth decay and cavities. A pea-sized amount of toothpaste is enough for adults, with a smear for children.

2. Pick the right time of day

It is recommended to brush your teeth last thing at night and on one other occasion during the day, ensuring each time that you avoid brushing your teeth straight after a meal. This is because acidic foods cause tooth enamel to soften and in the act of brushing your teeth you may inadvertently wear it away.

3. Change your tooth brush regularly

Be it an electronic tooth brush head, or a manual tooth brush, the best advice is to change it at least every 3 months. Beyond this period the bristles will become worn and stiff and, as a result, won’t be effective at cleaning your teeth and gums.

4. Make the time to Floss

Flossing is perhaps one of the least enjoyable aspects of maintaining a clean and healthy set of teeth. It’s time consuming and quite uncomfortable, however flossing regularly has many advantages. As well as removing plaque that lurks deep between your teeth, it can also help reduce gum disease and reach the awkward spaces that conventional toothbrushes cannot. If you have difficulty using floss, you could try using a floss holder, dental tape or an interdental cleaning aid. These look like little pipe cleaners. The NHS provides excellent guidelines on flossing, which can be found here:

5. Attend regular check-ups

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) recommends that most adults need to have a check-up at the dentist every two years. However, according to the Oasis Dental Care 2011 National Dental Survey, just 67% of adults are registered with a Dentist. If you’re one of the other 33% we encourage you to register with your local dentist as soon as possible; they will be able to spot any problems early on, which makes treatment easier. As well as seeing your dentist, make sure you make an appointment with your hygienist. This is usually every six months to a year. However, they will advise you when you’ll need your next clean. Regular professional cleaning, alongside good oral care at home, will help keep your smile healthy.

6. Eat less sugar

Tips one to five above will help you maintain a healthy set of teeth and so help reduce the possibility of absence dental/oral problem related absences. However, following these tips will only be effective in combination with a healthy, low sugar diet. This is because sugar affects your oral health from the moment it enters your mouth, causing damage and decay to your teeth. In addition, it’s not only a high level of sugar in your diet that causes tooth decay, but how often you eat sugar. Therefore, as well as trying to cut down on sugary foods and drinks in general, try to keep them to mealtimes.

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