Dental check-ups should include people being asked to step on the scales and get their blood pressure checked, according to public health experts.
Routine appointments should include BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure checks, it is argued, to identify middle-aged people at risk of heart problems and diabetes.
Many have red-flag health issues missed by their GP because they rarely make a doctor’s appointment.
The call for dentists to roll out health checks is made in a research paper published in the British Dental Journal.
It follows a successful two-year use of the strategy at a dental surgery in Cheshire for NHS and private patients, and 14 months of use by dentists in the Welsh borders, which predominantly sees NHS patients.
More than 500 people who saw their dentist got a health MOT at the same time, which revealed that three-quarters had higher than normal blood pressure, including a handful at high risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Almost 17 per cent had high cholesterol, while around 3 per cent had high blood sugar.
While half the population of England visit a dentist every two years, practices are currently overstretched, with people struggling to get appointments. Some even resort to pulling out their own teeth.
But the authors of the new research paper say, if dentistry had more resources, it could provide valuable health checks.
Dr Janine Doughty, lead author of the study from the University of Liverpool, and a dentist herself, said: ‘This should be part of what dentists are encouraged to do by regulators and the NHS.’
Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, said: ‘Dentists are skilled clinicians, and well placed to support vital work detecting and preventing disease. But we can only check bloods and weight if this service survives.
‘There’s an exodus in motion from NHS dentistry. Unless ministers step up, this is a purely hypothetical debate.’
The new paper, written by academics from the universities of Liverpool, Loughborough and Plymouth, argues that health checks at dental appointments could prevent people falling ill and dying.