Almost a third (28%) of British workers have taken time off due to toothache, according to research by dental plan provider Denplan.
The figure – from the Simplyhealth-affiliated company’s Oral Health Survey of more than 5,000 UK consumers – is equivalent to 11.7 million people of working age.
The research found that 7% of people have taken more than a week off work because of dental pain, with a further 21% taking at least one day of sick leave for toothache. According to Denplan, this suggests that at least 23 million working days are lost to dental pain, equivalent to 93,000 full-time jobs.
Around one in 10 (9%) people told the survey that the pain of toothache had affected their quality of work and their productivity when working. However, 12% of respondents reported trying to book an NHS dental appointment but had not been seen because of long waiting lists.
The release of the findings follows a parliamentary Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into the state of oral health provision, which described the challenges in accessing NHS dentists as “totally unacceptable”.
The survey also found that the rising cost of living and the perceived cost of accessing dental treatments could be deterring people from seeking help.
Almost a third (32%) of respondents worried about the cost of going to a dentist, with 23% concerned that dentists would advise unaffordable treatments. More than a third (34%) said they had previously postponed or cancelled a dentist appointment because they could not afford it, while 11% said their financial circumstances meant they can now no longer afford to go to the dentist.
Catherine Rutland, dentist and clinical director at Denplan, stressed the need for certainty about how and where workers can access dental care in order to avoid the type of severe pain that is so debilitating that it requires time off work.
“We need to move to a model where NHS and private dentistry works together to ensure preventative care is prioritised,” she said. “In doing so, people can catch problems earlier, avoiding invasive and expensive treatments down the line, and importantly, having to take time off due to dental health problems.”