In August we talked about various reasons your dental appointment involves checking your blood pressure. But now we want to talk a little more specifically about how that information is used and what it tells us. So…
What Does Your Blood Pressure Tell Your Dentist?
Dentists use blood pressure to assess basic risk
Hypertension, caused by high blood pressure, puts strain on the tissue of your artery walls and can lead to disease or even organ failure. It is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it can progress to an advanced stage before showing any symptoms. And because it is usually asymptomatic, it could reach a crisis point during an episode of high stress; say, a dental appointment. If a patient’s blood pressure is already high enough, he or she could suffer a stroke or a heart attack in the dentist’s office. Dental hygienists use blood pressure readings to be sure the patient does not get into the danger zone during a dental procedure.
They may refer for medical treatment if it’s high enough
Guidelines from the Medical College of Georgia, School of Dentistry, recommend that above 180/110 no dental work should be done without medical consultation, even if the patient has no prior history of cardiovascular complications (heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc.). Below this level most dental procedures are considered safe. A reading of 210/120 or higher, however, should be considered an emergency, and dental workers may have to call an ambulance for you.
On the less urgent side, although a temporary blood pressure of 130/80 is not dangerous, being consistently above that can be an indicator of type II diabetes, so your dental hygienist may recommend you for diabetes screening.
To know what kind of anesthetic to use
Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is a natural hormone that simultaneously raises your heart rate and makes your blood vessels constrict (vasoconstriction). Because of the latter effect, many local anesthetics use it to extend the numbing effect. But it also raises your blood pressure. It is not recommended for hypertensive patients to receive anesthetics that contain epinephrine, especially with readings of 200/115 and above.
White Coat Syndrome
White Coat syndrome, or white coat hypertension, is when a patient has higher blood pressure in a doctor or dentist’s office than in their normal environment. This is generally because of temporary anxiety about their surroundings. It’s why there are other ways to read blood pressure, like home kits and pharmacy test stations. Knowing whether the patient’s blood pressure is consistently high, or if it’s just the white coat effect, lets dental professionals prescribe the right treatment.
To know when to take a stress reduction break
Dentists and dental hygienists are trained to help patients relax when necessary. Even a patient who had normal blood pressure when they sat in the chair may undergo an increase in pressure as the appointment goes no. Monitoring blood pressure with frequent or continuous readings can signal when it is time to pause any dental work and initiate stress reduction techniques.
Putting all this together, reading blood pressure is a quick, non-invasive way to get valuable information on a patient’s health. It can tell your dental staff about the safety of any prospective dental work, and about non-dental issues you might want to consult a physician about. In fact, on your next dental appointment, don’t be scared to ask the dental hygienist about your blood pressure and what they can tell from it. If you want to talk about an appointment or have any questions, please visit our website or give us a call at (540) 635-2493.