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

University of Plymouth

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Plymouth
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,609
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 20th September 2021
Closes: 29th October 2021

DoS:                 Dr Zoë Brookes  tel: 01752 586828

2nd Supervisor: Dr Raul Bescos    tel: 01752 587585

3rd Supervisor:  Dr Robert Witton  tel: 01752 437381

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship.

The studentship will start on 01/01/2022

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 3 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

For further information on research studentships at the University of Plymouth and to apply for this position please visit: and select the studentship you would like to apply for. Please clearly state the name of the studentship that you are applying for on your personal statement.

Please see here for 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

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on Fri 29th October 2021. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on a provisional date of Monday 15th 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.

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