Oral health can be easily overlooked. Physical pains are seemingly more noticeable, but toothache is often brushed off, with people thinking it’ll go away on its own, or wait until later. And it seems oral health is just not as valued as overall health. In fact, one in 20 of us admit to never visiting a dentist1 and over half would cancel an appointment if they had financial worries1.
However, when poor oral health has effects on everything from absence to mental health, it’s an important issue for all brokers and employee benefits consultants to be aware of, to better support clients. Here are five reasons why oral health matters:
1. Dental related absence costs £105m each year
Research from the Oral Health Foundation found that one in 20 UK employees took time off due to dental issues in 20172. This equates to 1.2 million missed days of work, and a huge £105 million cost to the UK economy2.
This means employees are taking time off for problems that could have otherwise been identified in a regular dental check-up. Even if dental concerns haven’t yet developed into more serious issues, when employees come to work in pain, productivity and business performance will be negatively affected.
2. Six-fold increase in dental product engagement seen
Encouragingly, it seems as though dental health products are starting to get the attention they deserve. Paul Roberts, Senior Consultant at IHC, reports a six-fold increase in engagement with dental products when employees are given a choice against traditional products, such as health screening services.
Changes to how we work and generational attitudes of employees could be driving this surge in engagement. Tangible benefits like dental payment plans are more attractive to today’s workforce, who want benefits that make an obvious difference to their lives. Employers should take note of this to remain competitive in the recruitment market.
3. Gum disease linked to stroke, diabetes, and heart disease
We’re taught early on what happens if we don’t brush, floss and visit the dentist – decay, cavities, and gum disease are all possibilities. But the effects of oral neglect on our general health is not as widely understood. Gum disease, in particular, can be linked to stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. It’s also connected to problems in pregnancy and dementia3.
The mouth acts as a window to the body’s overall health. When you sit in the chair, the dentist is looking at much more than your teeth and gums; another reason why regular dental check-ups are so important. These links to serious health conditions, make it imperative for oral health to be part of every wellbeing strategy; if not to look after our oral health, then for the benefit of our general health.
4. 91% of dental plan patients visit dentist every six months
Thankfully, we can see that solutions for supporting oral health actually work. With over nine in ten people who have access to a dental plan visiting the dentist every six months4, it shows the investment can pay off. Moreover, a third of employees want their employers to offer a dental plan5, and 82% of employers who offer a dental plan, agree that it enhances their employees’ overall wellbeing5.
Dental plans can encourage employees to proactively look after their oral health. By taking a preventative approach, employers can help their staff maintain a healthy smile, but also keep a check on other health concerns. This can help minimise time off work for dental problems.
5. There’s a relationship between the mouth and the mind
In a similar way that oral health is linked to overall health, it also has a relationship with mental health. People with poor oral health can experience feelings of low self-confidence and self-worth; both of which can have significant impacts on mental health.
On the flipside, mental health issues can cause problems in the mouth. People suffering from certain symptoms of depression, are almost 20% more likely to have severe gum disease6. The Oral Health Foundation also identifies a number of common mental illnesses that can have impacts on oral health, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
Find out more about oral health
Oral health is a crucial element of any wellbeing strategy. Armed with improved knowledge of oral health, and the solutions available, you’ll be able to better support your clients in this area. We’ve partnered with Cover magazine to create a guide, packed full of valuable advice and insights, to help.
YouGov/Simplyhealth, 2018, Consumer Oral Health Survey 2018, total respondents: 5,264 UK adults (aged 18+)
YouGov/Simplyhealth, 2018, Consumer Oral Health Survey 2018, total respondents: 271 UK adults that have a monthly payment plan to pay for dental bills
Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing Benefits Guide 2017
Journal of Clinical Periodontology Nascimento, G. G. et al (2018) ‘Is there an association between depression and periodontitis? A birth cohort study’