It’s likely that many of your employees do not even recognize that they have dental problems. But the truth is, adults often face oral health complications. This is why having a good dental regimen at home is important regardless of age.
To be even more proactive, an oral hygiene routine should also be a part of every employee’s workday. As an employer, you can help support their workplace effort.
Dental Disease: Not Just for Kids
In spite of more adults keeping their teeth longer than their parents and grandparents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 27 percent of adults have untreated tooth decay and 75% of all adults over age 30 have some form of gum disease. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to tooth loss.
As you age, poor oral hygiene (along with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and arthritis) can increase your risk of experiencing dental problems. Cancer treatments, organ transplants, HIV and autoimmune diseases are all conditions that weaken the immune system, often leading to poor oral health. In addition, many of these disorders—and the medications needed to treat them—result in dry mouth, creating a bacterial environment favorable to dental decay and gum disease.
As noted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, smokers (especially males over age 40) are in a high-risk group for oral cancer. Along with smoking, heavy alcohol use also increases the probability significantly. Nearly 9,600 people die each year from oral cancer, but when caught and treated early, the prognosis for a successful outcome is good. Not using tobacco products, regular dental checkups and cancer screenings are key to preventing oral cancer.
Keeping Teeth and Gums Healthy
Just like kids, adults need to brush their teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily cleans between the teeth, where the toothbrush doesn’t reach. If you have trouble handling floss, there are floss holders and other interdental cleaners that may be easier to use. Rinsing with water after eating and drinking, especially after snacking, can be beneficial as well.
Scheduling regular checkup appointments, even if you have dentures, is critical to maintaining a healthy mouth. This allows your dentist to catch problems while they are small. Professional cleanings can also help prevent or reverse early gum disease.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, dry mouth can be helped by sipping water throughout the day, chewing sugarless gum, sucking on sugarless lozenges or using artificial saliva products. Always contact your dentist at the first sign of trouble, such as bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, changes in taste or smell and noticeable lumps or patches on the inside of your mouth or on your tongue.
If you smoke, now may be the time to quit! Not only does smoking put you at risk for oral cancer, it stains teeth and can cause bad breath and increase the likelihood for developing gum disease. Last but not least, limiting the amount of sugar in your diet and aiming for nutritious meals and snacks can help keep your mouth healthy.
Workplace Dental Strategies
Here are a few simple suggestions regarding how you can play a role in helping everyone in your company keep their teeth for a lifetime:
- Make sure your employees understand their dental plan and encourage them to use it. Periodic communications about the plan can help promote it and answer any questions they may have.
- Implement a fun reward system for employees who come from their dental checkup and have registered online to stay in touch with important dental information.
- Suggest employees keep a workplace dental kit in their desk drawer with a toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, floss and mouth rinse. If dry mouth is a problem, artificial saliva drops and xylitol gum would be a good addition. You may also want to provide some toothpaste and floss in the office restrooms.
- Keep the vending machines filled with less soda and more bottled waters and healthy snacks, like cheese, yogurts and sugarless gum.
- Sponsor lunchtime smoking/tobacco cessation cessation workshops.
If a comprehensive oral hygiene routine is the secret to a healthy mouth, then why not help your employees succeed in maintaining excellent oral health, just as you’ve helped them find great success working for your company?