A startling new study conducted by Denplan, the UK’s leading dental plan provider, has revealed that nearly three in ten Britons have been forced to take time off work due to excruciating tooth pain.
This research, a part of Denplan’s 2023 Oral Health Survey, points to a staggering 28 percent of the population being affected, equivalent to a staggering 11.7 million working-age individuals.
The findings, gathered from over 5,000 respondents across the UK, signify a significant public health issue and workplace concern. This comprehensive survey is set to be published later this autumn.
According to the survey, approximately 7 percent of respondents admitted to taking more than a week off work due to dental pain, with an additional 21 percent reporting at least one day of sick leave attributed to dental discomfort.
These figures collectively translate to an astonishing 23 million working days lost to dental pain or the equivalent of 93,000 full-time jobs. A concerning 9 percent of respondents also disclosed that toothache had adversely affected their work quality and overall productivity.
NHS dental deserts
As the phenomenon of “NHS dental deserts” continues to plague various regions in the UK, 12 percent of survey participants shared their struggle to secure an NHS dental appointment due to lengthy waiting lists.
Furthermore, as the cost of living in the UK rises, many individuals perceive dental treatments as a financial burden, potentially deterring them from seeking necessary oral health care. The survey highlights that 32 percent of respondents express concerns about the cost of dental visits, with 23 percent fearing that dentists might suggest unaffordable treatments. Disturbingly, 34 percent have admitted to postponing or cancelling dental appointments due to financial constraints, and 11 percent confessed they could no longer afford dental care due to their worsening financial circumstances.
This data follows months of turmoil within the dental profession. In July, the parliamentary Health and Social Care Committee scrutinized the state of oral health provision, labelling the challenges in accessing NHS dentists as “totally unacceptable.” Denplan actively participated in this inquiry and continues to advocate for better recognition of dentists, along with improved support to boost recruitment and retention in the industry.
For those concerned about dental costs, having dental insurance can provide a solution by allowing them to budget for their oral care over time. Among survey respondents with dental plans, approximately 63 percent affirmed that they have a plan in place to help them manage and spread the costs, while 27% have dental insurance provided by their employer.
Catherine Rutland, a Dentist and Clinical Director at Denplan, expressed her concerns, stating:
“Our Oral Health Survey is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research into dental consumers in the UK. The preliminary findings reveal that dental care provision in the UK is far behind where it should be, resulting in millions of working days lost to tooth pain.”
She further added, “People need certainty about how and where to access dental care to avoid the type of severe pain that is so debilitating it requires time off work. Although many avoid the dentist due to concern around shock costs for unexpected treatments, they aren’t aware that there is affordable dental cover available that allows you to spread payments.”
Rutland emphasized the need for a collaborative approach between NHS and private dentistry to prioritize preventative care, which could lead to early problem detection, reducing the need for invasive and expensive treatments and, importantly, preventing the need for individuals to take time off work due to dental health issues.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.