Simplyhealth: Clarifying the Oral Health Message

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Simplyhealth presents its Consumer Oral Health Survey 2019

Simplyhealth Professionals MD Caroline Colman (top) launched an evening of insight and interest by introducing the latest Consumer Oral Health Survey; and outlining the company’s 147 year history of providing healthcare to those in need through its affordable capitation schemes.

Stark information from the survey provides some jaw-dropping information. The data shows that nearly a third of children have between one and five fillings (according to their parents). Only 73% of adults brush twice a day or more – and a third never floss.

A quarter of adults admit to being addicted to sugar, yet only 13% think oral health is linked to diabetes, while only 20% believe that oral health is linked to heart disease.

The survey helps the company stay ahead of dental trends and also highlights those areas where education and attention should be focused.

Dentist and Simplyhealth Head of Professional Support Services, Dr Catherine Rutland, lead the evening’s panel discussion.

Why do we do it?

Catherine explained the practical purpose behind the survey; it helps to have solid data that leads towards a better understanding of oral health issues, which in turn leads to more pertinent communication with member dentists and thus helps them better tailor their business plans.

The research shows that one in five people are not visiting the dentist regularly – regularly means at least every two years or less. The reasons for not attending are many, but fear of the dentist, worries about cost, and the risk of pain are at the forefront. Those who attend the dentist most often are the least nervous, but even they will cancel an appointment if they suffer financial stress.

Catherine pointed out that people on a financial plan are most likely to visit the practice on a regular basis because they feel they have paid for the service and want their money’s worth.

The survey shows that 64% of parents said that getting children to brush twice a day was one of their biggest problems. Catherine painted an entertaining image of people getting their children into a headlock under one arm and administering the brush with the other, but she admitted that this was something that could only be done at home – which meant dental professionals must be able to share the oral health message with parents in a meaningful way.

Oral health awareness and care, including regular visits to the dentist, must start as early as possible. There is a real need to get children used to seeing the dentist and brushing their teeth until it becomes a normal part of their daily routine.

Brushing can be lost in the flurry of a busy day, so Simplyhealth will be flagging up its importance on 24th June with its ‘Big Family Brush Up’; more of which in the future.

Dr Chet Trivedy

Chet has been a dentist for 26 years and took up medicine 17 years ago, which makes him uniquely qualified to observe that medicine and oral health care are the same. Doctor, dentist, dietician, optician – all need to come together to better understand the patient as a whole.

When a person is diagnosed with serious condition their oral health might be ignored, but that shouldn’t happen. The mouth should be recognised as the pathway into the body; it doesn’t just stop at the throat but should be seen as part of the whole, not just a hole we shovel food and drink into.

Health care shouldn’t be just about either oral health or general health, it should be about, quite simply, health! All healthcare professionals should be educated to understand that, while general health impacts oral health, oral health also impacts general health – so, how do we build a bridge between the two?

Chet has gone some way towards this with his ‘Boundaries for Life’ initiative, sponsored by Simplyhealth, through which he offers free whole body health checks to the crowds and players during top cricket matches around the UK. To date his volunteer team have performed some 4,300 health checks, during which Chet has so far identified 10 cases of undiagnosed mouth cancer.

Helen Bond

Helen is an experienced dietician with 23-years-experience. She began in the NHS but is now in the private sector. Her presentation addressed the fact that one in five 18-24 year olds want to reduce their sugar intakes – but they don’t know where the sugar is.

Less than half understand that sucrose, fructose, honey, maple syrup and molasses are all forms of sugar. Thanks to this adults are ingesting an average of 51g of sugar a day (the recommended intake is 30g) and younger people are taking in over twice that. We know we need to cut down, but where is the sugar?

Alcohol provides 10% of the sugar intake in adults, add to that confectionary, beverages, sugary drinks, energy drinks and some carbohydrates and the totals begin to mount. Good nutrition begins in the supermarket trolley. Start by making small changes in your purchase habits to wean the family away from free sugars – which are those not found in the cells of fruit or vegetables.

Helen’s top five oral and sugar intake health tips

Avoid sugary drinks before or during bedtime, saliva production drops during sleep and the acids in sugary drinks or fruit juices can damage teeth.

Diet drinks might be low in calories and sugars but they are still acidic and can attack tooth enamel.

Think again about energy drinks, even during exercise. A single can of some energy drinks can contain up to 95g of sugar, which is more than three times the recommended intake.

48% of parents admit to bribing or rewarding children with sweets or sugary drinks, find an alternative.

To avoid sugar the best drinks in order are water, milk, tea and coffee (unsweetened).

Kate Thornton Simplyhealth Chief Customer Officer

In conclusion: In 1872 the founders of Simplyhealth created a system of access to healthcare for ordinary people – before the creation of the NHS. Members had a little green card that gave them medical care they otherwise couldn’t afford.

The way Simplyhealth meets that need has evolved but the driving passion has not changed; today over three million people are healthier thanks to an organisation that has no shareholders and donates over one million pounds a year to health related charities.

One of the most important of these is the Teeth Team initiative in Hull that addresses oral health issues in children at school. Thanks to Teeth Team brushing teeth has become part of the daily school routine, and an essential part of the prevention process.

We know about the shocking number of extractions now taking place in hospitals when children are diagnosed with untreatable decay, but from diagnosis to extraction can take up to a year. That means a year of pain and misery for those poor kids affected.

Teeth Team fights to prevent the caries happening, and, as with all the worthwhile initiatives Simplyhealth supports, they are something to be proud of.

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