The risks from shifts – Deborah Lyle – Waterpik

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  Posted by: Dental Design      7th December 2018

The risks from shifts

Although there are only 24 hours in a day, we have become more determined than ever to fill every one of them. We live in a fast paced, hyper-connected world and expect instant access to information, goods, activities and services at all times of the night and day. Consequently, and to meet the demands of this non-stop culture, people now work less conventional hours which often including evenings or weekends and over 3 million individuals regularly work night shifts.[1]

It is well known that working shifts can make it difficult to maintain a work/life balance and has the potential to impact adversely on a worker’s family and social life. However, for some people shift work is a lifestyle choice. It may be that working shifts enables them to conveniently fit in the care of children or elderly family members or simply offers them the opportunity to do more with their leisure time. In some sectors, working so called ‘unsociable hours’ or nights can also offer enhanced financial rewards. Nevertheless, when workers are required to frequently alternate their working pattern for example, from days to nights or earliest to latest, the body is not able to adjust to a single routine. The natural circadian rhythm is regularly disrupted and de-synchronisation can cause difficulties such as fatigue, psychological malaise and gastrointestinal problems, but also, it can have a similar affect to ‘jet lag’ making it difficult for these individuals to get enough sleep.[2]

It has been reported that approximately half of shift workers complain of sleeping difficulties.[3]They are also more likely to report general ill health and may have increased susceptibility to minor illnesses such as colds, flu and gastroenteritis as well as accidents and injuries as a result of fatigue or decreased attention.[4]In addition, there is evidence to indicate an increased incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and coronary heart disease in shift workers.[5]

Another concern is that shift workers are more likely to be obese.5 It can be hard for those that work at night to regulate meal times and the body does not digest food so efficiently when it is consumed at night. Food choices for night workers can be limited; fast food is often the only convenient option. The timing as well as the quality of meals can become compromised and a poor diet can easily become habitual. In addition, due to lower energy levels, shift workers are more likely to crave fatty, carbohydrate dense or sugary foods and drinks. Certainly, The Health Survey for England 2013 confirms that fruit and vegetable consumption is lower among shift workers. It also states that those that work shifts often use stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks to stay awake and cigarette smoking is also more prevalent among shift workers than non-shift workers.5

As dental practitioners can observe, there is a stark correlation between the risk factors associated with working shifts and those that can negatively affect oral health. Certainly, there are higher percentages of untreated decayed teethand oral health problemsamongnight shift workers.[6]A poor diet can impact significantly on the health of the teeth as well as the entire immune system and energy drinks in particular, are associated with a high prevalence of dental caries.[7]An imbalance in the immune system is commonly detected in obese individuals and may explain the association between obesity with certain diseases such as periodontitis.[8]Similarly, if blood sugar levels are poorly controlled, gum disease is likely to develop more often and more severely than when it is properly controlled.[9]In addition, shift workers are more prone to start smoking than daytime workers6and as it is extensively documented, smokers are almost three times more likely to experience severe periodontal disease than non-smokers.[10]Moreover, one study described the magnitude of the relationship between periodontal disease and shift work as significant.[11]

There is a clear connection between shift work and oral health problems6 and it appears that stronger measures may be required to provide oral health support to shift workers. As well as offering increased access to care to accommodate those that work unconventional hours, dental professionals can also contribute considerably by making them aware of the increased risks associated with working around the clock. As with all patients, it is imperative that these individuals have the knowledge and the tools to look after their oral health effectively at home and a device that can prove extremely helpful is the Waterpik®Water Flosser.

Many people find that using string floss is arduous and awkward and after a hard day’s night, interdental cleaning is an activity that may easily be neglected. The Waterpik®Water Flosser is easy to use, and it takes just one minute a day to clean deep between the teeth and below the gum line. Research reveals that water flossing is up to 50% more effective than string floss for plaque removal and improving gingival health[12]so it is the ideal adjunct to help even the most sleep deprived individuals to achieve optimum oral hygiene levels.

Generally activities slow down overnight, but there is an increasing expectation for all our needs to be catered for at any hour. Living in a 24/7 society, we should spare a thought for those that work unconventional hours and do our best to support them.


For more information on Waterpik®please visit Waterpik®products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, and Superdrug stores across the UK and Ireland.

[1]TUC. News 27th October 2017. The number of people regularly working nights has shot up by 260,000 in the past five years – a 9% increase, according to new analysis from the TUC.[Accessed 6th June 2018]
[2]C Bambra et al. “A hard day’s night?” The effects of compressed working week interventions on the health and work-life balance of shift workers: a systematic review. Journal of epidemiology and community health 62(9): 764-77 · October 2008.’s_Night_The_Effects_of_Compressed_Working_Week_Interventions_on_the_Health_and_Work-Life_Balance_of_Shift_Workers_A_Systematic_Review[Accessed 8th June 2018]
[3]Christopher L. Drake et al. Shift Work Sleep Disorder: Prevalence and Consequences Beyond that of Symptomatic Day Workers. SLEEP, Vol. 27, No. 8, 2004.[Accessed 8th June 2018]
[4]HSE Managing Shift Work Health and Safety Guidance. 2006. [Accessed 8thJune 2018]
[5]Health Survey for England – 2013. December 10, 2014.  [Accessed 8thJune 2018]
[6]Yoichi Ishizukaet al. Comparison of the oral health problems and behavior of male daytime-only and night-shift office workers: An Internet survey. J Occup Health. 2016 Mar 20; 58(2): 155–162.[Accessed 8thJune 2018]
[7]Laila Al-Shaaret al. Health Effects and Public Health Concerns of Energy Drink Consumption in the United States: A Mini-Review. Front Public Health. 2017; 5: 225.[Accessed 8thJune 2018]
[8]  Lamas O et al. Obesity and immunucompetence. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, 56(Suppl. 3):842–45.[Accessed 28th September 2015]
[9]P M Preshaw et al. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia Jan 2012.[Accessed 8thJune 2018]
[10]Papapanou PN: Periodontal diseases: epidemiology. Ann Periodontol. 1:1-36 1996[Accessed 8th June 2018]
[11]Han DH et al. Association between shift work and periodontal health in a representative sample of an Asian population. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2013 Nov;39(6):559-67. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.3370. Epub 2013 Jun 18. [Accessed 8thJune 2018]
[12]Barnes CM, et al. Comparison of irrigation to floss as an adjunct to tooth brushing: effect on bleeding, gingivitis, and supragingival plaque. J Clin Dent. 2005;16(3):71-7.[Accessed 8thJune 2018]

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