In sickness and in health – Howard Thomas

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  Posted by: Dental Design      3rd January 2018

It was reported recently that common oral health problems are costing the economy more than £105 million each year in sick days, with around one in 20 UK employees thought to have taken time off in the last year alone. While the profession has been alert for some time as to the external factors at play in regards to patients’ oral health, it’s been an eye opener for many in that the issue is still a long way from being brought under control.

The growing sugar consumption is one such problem that continues to plague the profession, with no end in sight. Indeed, despite widespread efforts from the government, avid campaigning from a number of high profile dental bodies and attempts from global food companies to reduce sugar content in popular food products, intake remains well above the recommended sugar allowance. A review of consumption from nationally representative dietary surveys across the world suggests that sugars as a percentage of energy ranges between 20 per cent and 38.4 per cent in infants, 17 per cent to 34.8 per cent in children, 15.4 to 29.6 per cent in adolescents and 13.5 to 24.6 per cent in adults. The data presented similar results for adults 60 years and above, with total sugars ranging from 13.3 to 23.2 per cent. The message simply isn’t getting through – and it’s showing.

It doesn’t help that every which way we turn there’s some sort of sweet treat there waiting to tempt us, from cakes and biscuits being passed under our noses in the workplace to chocolate and fizzy drinks on display in our local supermarket. Even those with high self-control are likely to crack from the pressure of temptation.

The same goes for alcohol. Despite a notable decline in consumption, there is still a booze culture in the UK that threatens to reverse all the hard work that has been going on behind the scenes. Dental caries and periodontal disease are two of the main culprits for toothache and oral discomfort, and it’s no coincidence that excessive drinking has been linked to both these conditions. Throw in the effects of tobacco on oral health (the prevalence of smoking in adults aged 18 and above is 15.5 per cent) and it’s almost no wonder that employees are taking time off to deal with or rectify oral illness.

Of course attendance remains one of the largest issues, with data suggesting that just 61 per cent of adults go for a check up on a regular basis and more than a quarter of adults only visit their dentist when they have a problem. Patients’ busy schedules have a lot to do with this, as many find it difficult to fit an appointment around their work and family commitments – especially if slots are only available from nine to five, Monday to Friday. It’s ironic really that in trying not to miss work, patients will invariably end up having to take time off anyway to attend an emergency appointment. After all, adults who do not attend check ups are both more likely to have a poorer dental status and suffer from acute symptoms of dental disease.

Unfortunately, attendance has also been heavily affected in recent years by accessibility. Indeed, it’s been an ongoing issue that patients are struggling to find an NHS dental provider taking on new patients, and where there are opportunities to register, appointment availability is often limited. With the additional barrier of affordability, more and more patients are slipping through the net, with oral problems going undetected.

But what can be done? The harsh reality of it is that there’s no easy solution to rectify this growing issue. By standing together, however, and continuing to work closely with the government and influential bodies, the profession can prevent this problem from becoming any worse. The needless pain of patients that are resorting to going off sick simply cannot be allowed to continue any longer, and with your ongoing support and hard work the profession can put an end to this suffering.

As well as encouraging regular dental checks, raising awareness and urging patients to adopt a thorough oral hygiene routine will be essential moving forward. You’ll also need to recommend products that are affordable yet effective, such as Curaprox CS toothbrushes and CPS interdental brushes, informing patients of the benefits that using specially designed adjuncts can have on their oral health.

As long as you help to improve just one patient’s quality of life, you will have made all the difference.

For more information please call 01480 862084, email or visit

The Oral Health Foundation: ‘Charity urges workplaces to tackle poor oral health as sick days cost UK economy £105m’. Published 15 May 2017. Accessed online 17 August 2017 at
Newens KJ, Walton J. A review of sugar consumption from nationally representative dietary surveys across the world. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016; 29 (2): 225-240. Accessed online 18 August 2017 at
NHS Digital: ‘Statistics on Smoking, England – 2017. Published 15 June 2017. Accessed online 21 August 2017 at
National Smile Month: ‘Facts and Figures’. Accessed online 21 August 2017 at
Montero J, Albaladejo A, Zalba JI. Influence of the usual motivation for dental attendance on dental status and oral health-related quality of life. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2014; 19 (3): 225-231. Accessed online 21 August 2017 at

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