Diagnosing high blood pressure at the dentist: an examination of periodontal disease and the oral microbiome

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship starting on 01 January 2022


To apply please use the online application form. Simply search for PhD Dental Studies, then clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

Online application

Before applying, please ensure you have read the Doctoral College’s general information on applying for a research degree.

For more information on the admissions process please contact doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk.

Project description

This PhD research post involves a scientific and clinical collaboration between the Peninsula Dental School (Oral Microbiome Research Group), the School of Health Professions and Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE), who operate our award winning primary care student dental clinics. This project aims to detect people with undiagnosed hypertension while attending for a routine dental visit; saving lives by referring to the GP people most at risk of an unexpected heart attack or stroke. In conjunction with blood pressure screening, this project will determine the composition of the oral microbiome in different oral niches and biofilms during hypertension, with and without periodontal disease (gum disease). The student will gain laboratory skills in microbiome metagenomics with statistical interpretation, along with biochemical techniques to analyse nitrate, nitrate and lactate, thus determining the diversity and nitrate reducing capacity of oral bacteria. Together this will determine whether oral bacteria contribute the increase in blood pressure associated with hypertension. The project will also involve collaboration with the Chief Dental Officer and experts in metagenomics at the University of Barcelona. Clinically the student will be supported by the dental team for basic oral examinations, but will partake in blood pressure measurement and oral microbiome sampling. Training will be provided within the laboratory for performing salivary diagnostics of health and disease, as well as oral microbiome analysis.


Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant masters qualification.

The studentship is supported for three years and includes full Home tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,609 per annum (2021/22 rate). The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for home fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover international fees will have to cover the difference between the home and the international tuition fee rates (approximately £12,697 per annum).

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Zoë Brookes (Director of Studies) by email.

Please see a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

This vacancy will involve working dental patients and confidential patient records, thus any appointment will be subject a Disclosure and Barring Service check.

For more information on the admissions process contact doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk.

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 29 October 2021. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on a provisional date of Monday 15 November and will be expected to give a short 10-minute presentation. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.