Blood Pressure Checks are Vital!
There's Something You May Not Be Getting at Dental Appointments…
Blood Pressure Checks!
Lacy Walker, RDH, BS, CDA, MAADH, FAAOSH
Dental professionals take blood pressure on patients because blood pressure is related to patient health, and dental professionals are healthcare professionals. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that poor dental health can have a negative impact on overall health. Studies have found links between periodontal (gum) disease and various systemic health issues, such as diabetes, stroke, and even cardiovascular disease. Keeping up with regular dental appointments is vital, as dental professionals can help identify and address any current or potential oral-systemic health issues before they become more serious.
People with periodontal disease have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and hypertension (high blood pressure), known as the "silent killer." This "silent killer" affects 80 million adults older than 20 years in the US alone and just <1 billion people worldwide. (1) By 2025, the number of patients diagnosed with hypertension is expected to be 1.56 billion; it is estimated that 17.3% of the 80 million US adults with hypertension are undiagnosed. (1) Undiagnosed hypertension has been proven to shorten a life span by 10–20 years. (2)
Blood Pressure: Know Your Numbers
A blood pressure screening at a dental appointment is a great way to identify blood pressure concerns. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carries the blood away from your heart to other areas of your body. The top number, systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number, diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats, and a normal blood pressure reading is anything below 120/80.
Blood Pressure Guidelines
According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (ACC/AHA), the 2022 hypertension guidelines reflect the following:
Normal BP: <120/80 mm Hg
Elevated BP: 120-129/<80 mm Hg
Stages of hypertension
Stage 1: 130-139/80-90 mm Hg
Stage 2: ≥140/≥90 mm Hg (3)
Understanding the importance of blood pressure readings is crucial in emergency situations because hypertension during a dental procedure can put you at risk for a medical emergency, such as a stroke. Additionally, local anesthetics (numbing agents) can be affected by high blood pressure. The epinephrine in the numbing agent constricts the blood vessels to reduce pain but can also elevate your blood pressure and cause more bleeding during certain dental procedures.
White Coat Syndrome
It is essential to have a blood pressure reading before proceeding with any dental procedure to identify concerns and potential complications. Do not hesitate to ask for a blood pressure reading if your dental professional doesn't routinely perform this life-saving measurement. Furthermore, if your blood pressure reading is high due to the commonly known "white coat syndrome," do not fear, as many people experience this phenomenon. Kindly request that your healthcare professional wait at least five minutes to retake the measurement to obtain a more accurate reading.
World Hypertension Day (WHD)
WHD aims to communicate to the public the importance of hypertension, its serious medical complications, and to provide information on prevention, detection, and treatment. (4) The World Hypertension League (WHL) launched its first WHD on May 14, 2005 and since 2006, the WHL has been dedicating May 17 of every year as WHD. (4)
By ensuring that your oral health is up to date, you can keep your blood pressure under control and reduce the risk of developing other serious health conditions. In a nationwide survey during World Hypertension Day in 2020, over 4,000 volunteers at 733 Italian pharmacies concluded that regular daily brushing and electric toothbrushing are associated with a better blood pressure profile in a real‐world context. (5)
Taking care of your oral health is an essential part of taking care of your overall well-being. Maintaining regular dental appointments is important to ensure proper dental hygiene and avoid any long-term health consequences. Lastly, remember there is a strong correlation between oral health and blood pressure, and ask your dental healthcare professional for a blood pressure measurement at every appointment.
1. Southerland, J. H., Gill, D. G., Gangula, P. R., Halpern, L. R., Cardona, C. Y., & Mouton, C. P. (2016). Dental management in patients with hypertension: Challenges and solutions. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry, 8, 111-120. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCIDE.S99446
2. Becker D. E. (2009). Preoperative medical evaluation: part 1: general principles and cardiovascular considerations. Anesthesia progress, 56(3), 92–104. https://doi.org/10.2344/0003-3006-56.3.92
3. Flack, J. M., & Adekola, B. (2020). Blood pressure and the new ACC/AHA hypertension guidelines. Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, 30(3), 160-164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2019.05.003
4. Chockalingam, A. (2008). World Hypertension Day and global awareness. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 24(6), 441-444. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0828-282x(08)70617-2
5. Pinto, R. D., Pietropaoli, D., Grassi, G., Muiesan, M. L., Monaco, A., Cossolo, M., Procaccini, A., & Ferri, C. (2022). Home oral hygiene is associated with blood pressure profiles: Results of a nationwide survey in Italian pharmacies. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 49(12), 1234-1243. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpe.13720