Of course, it’s always a good idea to take care of your teeth, and if you are working offshore, it’s especially important as there will not be a dentist on hand to help out if you have raging toothache or a painful abscess.
A recent survey of visits by offshore workers to their rig medic showed that 30% of these were about dental problems.
Everyone who works offshore needs to have a medical assessment such as the OGUK (formerly known as a UKOOA) to show that they have the necessary fitness level.
If you don’t already have regular dental check-ups, it would be wise to see your dentist before you have your medical assessment.
If it is obvious that your teeth need attention, you will not be issued with a full certificate. Instead, you will receive a restricted certificate which allows you a nominated amount of time to make sure these dental issues are resolved.
You will only receive your full two-year offshore medical certificate after your dentist has completed a form confirming you have had the necessary treatment.
If a serious dental problem arises offshore, an individual can become unfit for work and they will need to be taken onshore to receive the necessary dental treatment.
Medevacs cost man-hours for operators and are obviously to be avoided whenever possible.
Dental problems are one of the major reasons for medevacs – but many could be avoided by dental-hygiene measures being carried out on an ongoing basis.
Apart from the obvious signs of a dental problem – toothache – gum disease can slowly creep up on you over time and this can eventually lead to you losing your teeth.
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that hardens into tartar around the teeth, particularly in the difficult to reach spots where the teeth meet the gums.
If plaque is not attended to, it can lead to the gum infection, gingivitis, which is an inflammation that causes the gums to bleed and feel sore, and also results in bad breath.
If the condition is not treated, it can become a serious gum disease which will lead to the eventual loss of teeth. It is surprising just how many teeth are lost to gum disease rather than decay.
The sugar we eat will react with plaque bacteria to create teeth-damaging acids. The acid found in drinks such as colas and red wine can also damage tooth enamel.
If you are eating sugary foods, it’s best to restrict them to mealtimes – eating sugary food little, but often, during the day will cause more damage than limiting your sugar consumption to mealtimes only.
Smoking is also a major cause of gum disease and should be avoided.
To keep your teeth and gums healthy, you should brush for about two minutes at least twice a day, or more if this is recommended by your dentist. When brushing your teeth, pay special attention to where they meet the gums.
Your toothbrush should be replaced at least every three months, or more often if it is starting to look worn.
When a toothbrush is worn out, it begins to splay outwards and will no longer clean effectively. Throw it out; get a new one.
Moreover, you should use interdental brushes or floss between your teeth so that you can reach into small gaps.
Regular check-ups with your dentist are a necessity so that any dental treatment can be given quickly and you can have tartar removed by the oral hygienist.
Your dentist and oral hygienist will always be pleased to answer any questions and offer you advice so that you can keep your teeth and gums healthy for longer.
Jennifer Horan is an occupational-health nurse at Abermed, a leading provider of occupational healthcare and industrial medical services. See www.abermed.com