Health Department Grant Collaborates with Dental Offices on Blood Pressure Screenings
The Garrett County Health Department is working with four local dental clinics on a grant which has the dental offices identify patients with high blood pressure. The participating offices are Dream Dental, Dr. Terry Dornburg, Mullins Family Dentistry, and the Health Department Dental Clinic. The grant is funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Oral health is an integral part of overall health and well-being throughout a person’s life,” said Amy Ritchie, Registered Dietician at Garrett County Health Department. “The CDC saw this as a valuable opportunity for oral health systems to impact chronic disease outcomes by intervening on a population that may not be reached through the medical health care system.”
The dental offices were given digital blood pressure systems, and are asked to use the equipment to check blood pressures of all patients who are 18 years old or older. After taking two blood pressures, the average is recorded. If the patients reading can be classified as having hypertension, they are provided educational material on ways to lower their blood pressure. A referral is sent to the patient’s primary care physician for follow up. In September, 378 patients had their blood pressures taken through this program.
Dental clinics are also encouraging their patients who use tobacco products to quit and are referring them to Garrett County Health Department’s cessation program and to Maryland’s Tobacco Quit Line -1-800-QUIT-NOW.
The Grant reads: The institute of Medicine has affirmed that integrating oral health into the medical health care system would promote better overall health and improve access to all preventive health services. In Maryland, the majority of adults (70.2%), an estimated 3.25 million Marylanders, report having visited a dentist in the past year. Even among Maryland adults who have not seen a doctor for a routine checkup in five or more years, almost half (48.8%) have seen a dentist in the past year.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Maryland, killing over 11,000 Marylanders each year. Meanwhile, hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease, affects more than one third (33.6%) of Maryland adults. By identifying and treating undiagnosed hypertension through oral health and chronic disease collaboration, Maryland can significantly reduce heart disease death, disability, and associated risk factors.
For more information about this program, or the tobacco cessation program, call the Health Department at 301-334-7730 or 301-895-3111.