We know that our office can be a very unhealthy place. There’s the stress. Then there’s the sitting. And there’s even, according to a recent feature in Newsweek, the office air. It’s all trying to kill you.

But not office cake, right? Surely not office cake, that sweet and sharable distraction from the otherwise drab days.

No, apparently, it’s killing you, too. That is, at least, according to a British dentist, who highlighted all the multifarious ways that office cake is bad for your health.

The Primary Site of Sugar Intake

The argument put forward by Prof. Nigel Hunt of the Royal College of Surgeons’ Faculty of Dental Surgery says that office cake is an important part of our culture of overconsumption of sugar. In fact, he says, the office has become “the primary site of . . . sugar intake.” That is, most Britons (and probably most Americans) are consuming more sugar at work than they are at home or elsewhere. It’s probably true, once you factor in the morning (and afternoon) caffeine fixes, the sugary donuts or danishes for breakfast, sodas at lunch, and, of course, the office cake.
Part of the problem, Prof. Hunt says, is that cake culture has become an essential part of the way offices operate. Cakes have become integrated into many different celebrations. Birthdays, of course, and work anniversaries or milestones are usually celebrated with cake. Cake is often seen as a way to reward employees for doing a good job, and people bring in cakes on their own as a goodwill gesture for their coworkers.

Part of the problem is that the cake celebration is often protracted throughout the workday, leading to multiple servings of cake, which contributes to obesity and tooth decay. People seek out an extra slice of cake when they’re having a hard day. They might also want a quick sugar boost to help them stay awake in their afternoon. Or cake can be just an excuse to get up from your desk.

What Employers Can Do to Protect Oral and General Health

The good news is that employers have the power to make cake less damaging to oral and overall health. Prof. Hunt recommended several steps that employers can take to encourage employees to be more healthy. First, employers can try replacing cake with other, healthier treats, such as fruits and nuts. Cheese is an especially good option. Not only is it popular, but it can help clean your teeth and provides essential nutrients for your teeth. Of course, cheese is fattening, so it continues to contribute to a potential obesity problem, but people are less likely to snack on it quite as much.

When cake (or other treats) are offered, employers should supply it at lunch, rather than as an afternoon snack or something that people are encouraged to indulge in whenever they like. This can also help with productivity loss due to cake.

And employers should encourage workers to take healthy breaks, such as exercise, rather than simply getting up to get a coffee or a slice of cake.

Protecting Your Oral Health at Work

But what can you do if your office is irresponsible in the amount of cake it offers? Then you have to take control of the situation, and do what you can. Whenever possible, have your cake with lunch. If it tends to get served in the afternoon, set your piece aside to enjoy tomorrow.

Don’t use cake, soda, or other treats as a pick-me-up in the middle of the day. Exercise can both boost your mood and keep you from dozing off at work.
If you need caffeine in the middle of the day, go for unsweetened coffee or tea, rather than acidic and sugary drinks like soda–and definitely not cake. Also consider that afternoon caffeine consumption is a warning sign of sleep apnea.

When you do have a sugary snack, finish with a glass of water that can rinse the sugar from your teeth.

When you do bring in a treat for the office, consider options other than a cake. And if you are bringing in sweet treats, try using a sugar substitute like xylitol, which can help fight cavities.

Do You Need a Dentist?

But if your oral health is suffering because of office cake and other temptations, and you are looking for a Blue Bell dentist, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment with Dr. Ken Siegel at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.