Taking blood pressure
Blood pressure checks offered by a dental treatment centre in Plymouth have enabled a patient to receive potentially life-saving care for suspected heart failure.
A new study, published in the British Dental Journal, details the case of a 65-year-old male patient who attended a hypertension case-finding clinic run by the Peninsula Dental School and Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE).
The patient, who asked to remain anonymous, had a previous history of high blood pressure, and had been prescribed medication by his GP as a means of managing the ongoing condition.
However, at one of these case-finding clinics in June 2022, his blood pressure was found to be 150/85mmHg, and the patient was encouraged to contact his GP, in addition to the research team writing a formal referral letter.
Six days after being seen at the dental school, the patient was advised to visit his local emergency department and was subsequently hospitalised for 13 days where he received treatment for heart failure and suspected acute coronary syndrome. He was also later diagnosed with an overactive thyroid.
Writing in the British Dental Journal, the authors of the study say it highlights that checks undertaken in a primary care dental setting can be extremely useful in alerting patients and clinicians working across the health sector to potential issues. This model has the added advantages of being clinician-led, performing accurate blood pressure measurements, and referring to other services.
Amazon Doble, a Faculty of Health PhD student at the University, who established the blood pressure clinic, is the study’s lead author.

When we first saw this patient, his blood pressure was an obvious cause for concern. However, it was amazing to then hear that the checks provided through our service had led to him receiving potentially life-saving treatment. We have also referred patients who have been experiencing issues with their blood sugar or high cholesterol.

The blood pressure checks were introduced at the University’s dental education facilities in Devonport in 2022, as part of a research project exploring the connections between oral bacteria (oral microbiome) and cardiovascular disease.
The works also involve study co-author Dr Raul Bescos Garcia and the Oral Microbiome Research Group, which has previously published on the links between oral health with high blood pressure.
Since 2022, the hypertension case finding clinics have recruited more than 200 patients, who have their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked separately to their scheduled dental appointments.
In addition to researchers from the Peninsula Dental School, this new study involved researchers from the School of Health Professions and the Office of the Chief Dental Officer, who are using these findings to support commissioning of this idea in other regions of the UK.
It also builds on recent research involving academics at the Peninsula Dental School which found that dental professionals can make a marked and positive difference to public health when they are trained to spot some of the key markers of chronic disease.
The team – which also includes Professor Robert Witton, Professor of Community Dentistry – has further recommended better integration of dental services into primary care, something that is being encouraged as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events.
Dr Zoe Brookes, Associate Professor in Dental Education and Research at the Peninsula Dental School, is the new study’s senior author.

Many of our patients struggle with access to healthcare. As a result, the clinic we have established in Devonport in an area of low socioeconomic status, is finding more people than expected who didn't realise they had life threatening cardiovascular risk factors. This study is a prime example of how important such a service can be, and it's great that our dental clinics can offer this potentially life-saving service. We are now continuing to work with local GPs, the Office for The Chief Dental Officer and others to ensure its positive impact can be felt across the health service and wider community.

Zoe BrookesZoe Brookes
Associate Professor of Dental Education and Research

  • The full study – Doble et al: Uncontrolled hypertension at the dentist: a case report of integrated healthcare – is published in the British Dental Journal, DOI: 10.1038/s41415-023-6546-6.