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Dentists to test patients blood pressure under new program

Some dentists will soon begin testing for hypertension.

Maryland is among six states that will share in a $3 million federal grant to develop a pilot program that uses dentists to check patients' blood pressure.

Heart disease is the state and nation's biggest killers, and the effort is among many created to reach those with undiagnosed hypertension. Other programs in Baltimore City and elsewhere in the state have engaged churches and barber shops to take blood pressure readings and refer people for medical attention.

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For this program, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was awarded $500,000 over two years to identify dental providers in Baltimore City and Wicomico, Somerset, Worcester counties, and up to three more counties, who could do the evaluations.

The Office of Oral Health and the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control in the state health department will use the program to identify, prevent, and control hypertension by having the dentists provide blood pressure screenings during routine dental visits, and counsel and refer patients with previously undiagnosed hypertension to medical providers for further evaluation.

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The idea is to help reach patients with chronic hypertension who lack primary care physicians by leveraging existing infrastructure.

The money comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Models of Collaboration for State Chronic Disease and Oral Health Programs.

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