For many people who are particularly unhappy with their jobs, an office cake can be the only bright spark in the day. And you may remember how not getting a piece of the office cake seemed to be one of the triggers that set off stapler-obsessed Milton to burn down the titular Office Space in the classic workplace comedy.
But now a British dentist is seeking to put a damper on the mini office parties that proliferate around his country and ours, warning that “cake culture” is driving obesity and dental problems by fostering a culture of sugar overconsumption.
The Primary Site of Sugar Intake
The key to the argument by Prof. Nigel Hunt, of the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery, is that for many people, the office has become “the primary site of . . . sugar intake.” This means that office cake is a significant driver of obesity and poor oral health.
The challenge of trying to overcome this problem is that cake culture has become ingrained in the workplace. A cake is seen as a primary option for many different occasions. There are of course the birthday celebrations, but employers also use cake as a reward to employees for doing a good job or achieving certain milestones. Workers also contribute to the problem as they bring in treats from their vacations or just to celebrate certain days, like National Donut Day.
There are many problems that make cake at the office a serious challenge to health. It can be hard for people to resist the temptation of something sweet as a reward when they’re dealing with workplace stress. Boredom can also drive people to seek a sugar boost to help them stay alert and focused at work, or just an excuse to get up from their desk for a while.
Cake as a between meal snack is particularly damaging to teeth because the sugar and starch feed oral bacteria, leading to increased risk of cavities and gum disease.
What Employers Can Do to Protect Oral and General Health
Prof. Hunt encouraged employers to take certain steps to reduce the impact of cake culture. First, he said, employers should consider other treats, such as fruit platters, nuts, or cheese as a reward. Hard cheeses are especially good for promoting oral health. Calcium is an essential building block for teeth, cheese cultures have antibiotic properties, and the cheese itself can serve to clean your teeth.
When cake is offered, it should be supplied as part of lunch, rather than as a separate snack or an all-day grazing opportunity.
They can also consider ways to encourage healthy breaks such as exercise that can help employees get active and avoid sugar cravings.
Protecting Your Oral Health at Work
If you are in an office where these temptations come up a lot, you can take steps to help protect your oral health. First, try to combine your treat with lunch. If you need a pick-me-up in the middle of the day, try getting active or just getting a glass of cold water. If you must indulge in caffeine, stick to black coffee and unsweetened tea. This can discolor teeth, but teeth whitening is better than a filling any day.
If you do have a sugary snack, always rinse your mouth with water afterward to remove any sticky bits of cake that can continue to feed oral bacteria. If necessary, gently brush your teeth to help keep them clean, but avoid overbrushing.
And if you do bring in treats, consider nonsugary treats, or treats that use sugar substitutes like xylitol.
Do You Need a Dentist?
However, if you are suffering poor oral health as a result of your office’s cake culture, it’s important to see a dentist sooner rather than later. If you are looking for a quality dentist in Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 for an appointment at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.