Dentists Screen 22,000 Marylanders For Hypertension Thanks To Maryland Department Of Health Pilot Program
“Two Minutes With Your Dentist Can Save Your Life” Campaign Lets Marylanders Know that Dentists Play an Important Role in Overall Health
BALTIMORE, Md (July 31, 2018) — Thanks to a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more dentists are screening Marylanders for high blood pressure (hypertension) than ever before. Hypertension is a common risk factor for heart disease. The grant funds a pilot program to encourage dental professionals to screen patients for hypertension at every visit and refer cases of elevated and high blood pressure to medical professionals and community resources for further services. A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120 for the systolic (upper number) and less than 80 for the diastolic (bottom number) – The pilot is overseen by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Office of Oral Health and the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control.
To promote the pilot, MDH launched a campaign, titled “Two Minutes With Your Dentist Can Save Your Life.” The campaign educates Marylanders about the critical role dentists play in identifying undiagnosed hypertension as well as reminds dentists of the critical role they can play in a patient’s overall health. As a part of the campaign, a traveling banner exhibit, coupled with a discussion explaining the importance of good oral health for better health, recently kicked off at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Orleans Street Branch in Baltimore and the Carroll County Public Library North Carroll Branch in Hampstead. Additional banner exhibits will be announced throughout the year.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Maryland, killing more than 11,000 Marylanders each year,” said Howard Haft, MD, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, Maryland Department of Health. Our goal is to encourage dentists to screen their patients for hypertension at every visit while empowering Marylanders to ask their dentist for hypertension screenings. We believe this will ultimately save lives.”
According to Debony Hughes, DDS, Director, Office of Oral Health, “Dentists can become the first point of contact for many Marylanders to help them identify undiagnosed high blood pressure and get them into care for follow-up screenings and treatment. As we take our campaign on the road in 2018, we are looking forward to educating the public and involving more dentists in the program.”
A Life Saved
In one remarkable case, a 41-year-old man was visiting the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) Eastern Dental Clinic, a pilot program participant, for an oral exam when he was screened for hypertension by the dental assistant. The patient’s reading was 147/101—high blood pressure. The dentist urged the patient to see his primary care provider as soon as possible since he had not reported a previous history of hypertension.
Concerned about his health, the patient immediately visited a local emergency room (ER). While at the ER, physicians determined that he had an undiagnosed heart condition. Today, the patient is doing well and gives credit to the Eastern Dental Clinic staff for saving his life.
“All too often we see patients who don’t understand the critical role oral health plays in their overall health,” said Patricia Bell-McDuffie, DDS, Director, Oral Health Services, Baltimore City Health Department. “Bacteria found in the mouth can travel through the blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body. If not managed properly, this bacteria can create unwanted inflammation that can affect the body, including the heart. We always encourage patients to visit the dentist regularly. That way we can conduct frequent screenings for hypertension and, if necessary, encourage people to stop smoking—all in an effort to increase overall health and well-being.”
To learn how “Two Minutes With Your Dentist Can Save Your Life,” please visit www.health.maryland.gov/oral-health.
About the “Hypertension Screening in Dental Setting” Program
The Office of Oral Health and the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control in the Maryland Department of Health launched a unique program to integrate oral health and primary care in Maryland. The pilot program, “Hypertension Screenings in Dental Settings,” launched in May 2017, is raising awareness among Marylanders and oral health providers about the important role dentists play in identifying undiagnosed hypertension.
The pilot project is coordinated by county health departments, select private dental practices, and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in 14 Maryland jurisdictions. Maryland jurisdictions participating in the pilot include: Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester counties, as well as Baltimore City.
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