The UK's economy is being damaged by poor levels of oral health, according to a leading charity.

A nationwide survey by the British Dental Health Foundation revealed more than 415,000 employees took time off work last year due to dental problems while more than 1.1 million people admitted to taking time off work to look after a child suffering with their oral health.

The independent charity has estimated that UK businesses have lost a staggering total of £36.6 million in the last year due to people taking time off work because of dental problems.

Further research by the Foundation has discovered less than one in ten workers (7 per cent) received information from their employers about the importance of maintaining good oral health, leaving a substantial amount of people open to a variety of health problems.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes that if businesses placed as much of an importance on the dental wellbeing of their employees as they did on their general health, unforeseen absenteeism in the workplace could be reduced.

Dr Carter said: 'The figures from this study highlight the significant number of people who are forced to miss work each year unnecessarily due to largely avoidable and preventable oral health problems. What many employers won't realise is that poor oral health is increasingly being linked to other more serious medical conditions such as diabetes, strokes and heart problems.

'Time and money are clearly barriers to improving oral hygiene, especially during the economic downturn, but we hope more employers will take another look at their occupational health and general welfare policies and give a greater priority to oral health.

'By introducing dental health into occupational health policies, employers can not only increase the productivity and performance of their workers, but it can vitally help to reduce absence related costs too.'

Ruth Chesmore, director of dental services, Bupa, said: 'Visiting the dentist for regular check-ups can help prevent dental problems in the long-term. A recent Bupa study found that only half the people we spoke to had regular dental check-ups. Even people who are happy with their teeth should pay attention to their dental health, as problems can happen at any time and get worse if not treated. Educating people on what to look out for can help to prevent problems and reduce time off work.'

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