15 June 2021
Lack of dental care putting employees at risk of mouth cancer
Covid has meant that routine dental visits have been delayed, cancelled, and often not even re-booked. This means employees are at risk of mouth cancer being undiagnosed, warns Towergate Health & Protection. The company is alerting employers to the rising number of cases of mouth cancer1 and encouraging employers to investigate the options on how they can look after their employees.
Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “Early detection is key to improved survival rates of mouth cancer but with dental appointments hugely delayed and even cancelled completely, due to Covid, many people are now at risk of it going undetected. It is generally a dentist who is likely to be the first to spot signs of mouth cancer and employers have a vital role to play by providing access to dental care.”
The British Dental Association states that mouth cancer referrals have fallen by 60% since the first UK lockdown in March 2020 and that this could lead to a potentially devastating rise in mortality2.
No time to wait
A report on dentistry during Covid, published at the end of May 2021 by Healthwatch England3, stated that dental surgeries had thousands of people on their waiting lists. Some patients were offered appointments in three years’ time and most people had not had an appointment since March 2020.
“This is not just about fillings and tooth whitening,” commented Brett Hill. “Cancer does not wait. Screening, testing and early diagnosis are key for better outcomes.”
Mouth cancer statistics4
- Someone is lost to mouth cancer every three hours
- Mouth cancer causes more deaths in the UK each year than road traffic accidents
- More people in the UK die each year of mouth cancer than of cervical and testicular cancer combined
- Incidence has risen by 49% over the past 10 years
Options for employers
There are a number of options for employers to support the dental health of their employees and not all of them come at a cost to the company. It is possible for employers to provide access to dental care benefits, without necessarily covering the bill.
Another popular way for employers to support dental care is via a cash plan. These usually include dental and optical care as standard and can be a very affordable way to help employees. For a small monthly premium, employees are given money back when they visit the dentist, and are a good way for employees to budget and spread costs.
Dental insurance works in much the same way as private medical insurance (PMI), and different levels of cover can be offered.
Although most PMI plans will probably not cover standard dental treatment, they will generally cover serious illnesses like mouth cancer.
In addition to detecting serious issues such as mouth cancer, and treating issues before they become more serious, dental cover can have other advantages too.
Providing access to dental care means employees have less time off awaiting appointments and less time off for pain. It can mean employees have to access dental treatment more quickly which generally results in less time off work overall as problems treated early tend to be less severe and less time-intensive to remedy.
3. Dentistry during COVID-19 insight briefing | Healthwatch