You may be wondering why a dentist took your blood pressure at a routine cleaning or prior to a dental procedure.
In recent years, many dentists, especially oral surgeons, have begun to take their patients’ blood pressure as a best practice.
Known as the ‘silent killer,’ hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a cause of about 60,000 deaths per year. Hypertension affects about 30% of Americans and often goes unnoticed because it is asymptomatic in most cases.
For many individuals, maintaining routine cleanings at the dentist is more common than visiting their physician for annual physicals and wellness testing. Dentist appointments are a unique opportunity to serve as a wellness check on blood pressure every six months. Adding this service to a dental visit allows dentists and patients to have a baseline of their blood pressure in just a few moments.
Beyond providing an added benefit to patients, there are three reasons your dentist should be taking your blood pressure regularly:
Local anesthetics contain epinephrine
Epinephrine is an endogenous substance, meaning it is created naturally in the body and distributed as a part of our body’s fight or flight response. Epinephrine increases blood pressure in order to assist the body in reacting to emergency situations.
When a dentist uses a local anesthetic or numbing cream containing epinephrine, it can cause your blood pressure to increase. If a dentist doesn’t check your blood pressure and uses a local anesthetic, an individual may be put at risk for a medical emergency. Often, patients have no symptoms of high blood pressure and are unaware. Being able to provide an extra touchpoint for medical safety is important for our patients. While the effects of raising the blood pressure to an unsafe level may not be seen in the chair, the patient could have an episode at home or later in the day.
Dental anxiety and fear of the dentist
Many people have “white coat syndrome” or fear of the dentist and dental anxiety. It can be nerve-wracking to have someone in your personal space and many people have a fear of the unknown. If dentists are taking blood pressure when you sit in their chair, they can establish a baseline of your health, or point out any prehypertensive or hypertensive numbers to alert you to see your physician. Anxiety and fear can raise your blood pressure, so making sure that your blood pressure is normal and healthy, allows the dentist to be aware of any risks associated with treatment. Discomfort can affect bodily response.
Like dental anxiety and fear of the dentist, discomfort causes your blood pressure to rise, which alerts your body that something is wrong. While this is a natural response, it may provoke other medical emergencies in individuals with high blood pressure if they become too uncomfortable or anxious. Establishing a baseline as soon as a patient sits in a chair creates a safeguard for their health.
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