A growing body of evidence illustrates the relationship between the mouth and overall health and well-being. Safe and effective measures to improve oral health and prevent oral disease are well known. And yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 90% of adults over the age of 40 have experienced some tooth decay. Among children, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease – five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Tooth decay, and other oral diseases, are painful. They are progressive, and over time, impact our ability to perform normal daily functions.
The impact of oral disease is especially obvious in schools and in workplaces. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that over 164 million work hours and 51 million school hours are lost each year due to oral health issues. Those are work hours and school hours lost due to absenteeism as well as an inability to be fully productive when at school and work.
Among the preventive measures that are known to improve oral health and prevent disease are daily oral hygiene procedures like brushing, community water fluoridation, quitting smoking, and the placement of dental sealants. And, importantly for employers, much of the burden of oral disease could be reduced with increased access to affordable dental care. According to a 2009 report about oral health in Massachusetts, approximately 80% of residents with any insurance reported visiting a dentist in the past year, while just 48% without insurance reporting a dental visit within the past year.
Among the things that employers can do to help promote better oral health among employees are:
- Offering dental benefit programs that cover preventive services, with minimal cost to employees
- Reminding employees to regularly visit their dentist for ongoing care
- Monitoring the effectiveness of your dental benefits, and ensuring they meet employee need
- Support water fluoridation efforts in your community; click here for a list of Massachusetts cities and towns that are currently fluoridated
- Provide paid sick time for preventive dental visits
To learn more about oral health and the workplace, join us for an upcoming webinar in our Expert Series titled “The Effects of Oral Health and Asthma on Absenteeism and Presenteeism”. To learn more and to register, visit our website.
 Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2000. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/SurgeonGeneral/Report/ExecutiveSummary.htm
The Status of Oral Health in Massachusetts: A Great Unmet Need. http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/com-health/oral-health-burden.pdf