The dentist’s office can be an uncomfortable environment to be in, especially if you’re there for more than just a regular cleaning and check-up. And while there are plenty of ways to make your visit more comfortable – like these tips for managing your dental anxiety – there’s another factor at play: your blood pressure.
Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, is a chronic illness affecting more than a billion people worldwide and is especially prevalent in Americans – 80 million, to be exact. Hypertension is asymptomatic, meaning that unless you’re regularly checking your blood pressure, you may not know you have it until it’s too late.
The other name for hypertension? The “silent killer.” In fact, research conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that undiagnosed and untreated hypertension can shorten lifespans by 10-20 years.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults have regular blood pressure screenings with readings of <120/80. When your blood pressure begins to climb, it’s important to get in contact with your primary care physician to regularly monitor and control your hypertension with antihypertensive medications.
Why does hypertension matter to my dentist?
An important part of every dental check-up should include reviewing your medical history and updating us on any changes or new medications you may be on – especially those used to treat hypertension. Many antihypertensive medications interact with the numbing agents most dentists use and will need to be adjusted accordingly to keep you out of pain and safe.
Hypertension combined with dental treatment is something to avoid.
While we do everything in our power to help you feel safe and comfortable during your visit – like offering our comfort menu items such as warm blankets, neck pillows and nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) – you may still feel your blood pressure rising.
Before treatment, our team will assess your blood pressure and determine if it’s safe to proceed with treatment. Hypertension can put you at risk for an emergency, such as a stroke, and if your reading is too high we’ll help you get rescheduled after you visit your primary care provider.
Local anesthesia can affect your blood pressure.
We know that getting numbed for a procedure is everyone’s least favorite part of a dental visit – but what you may not know is that many anesthetics used in dental offices have epinephrine in them, to help prolong the numbing effect.
Epinephrine works by constricting the blood vessels, which help keep you out of pain but can elevate blood pressure. When hypertension is combined with a numbing agent, patients are likely to bleed more during procedures like extractions. If you are on antihypertensive medication, your dosages will be adjusted and other anesthesia may be used to keep you comfortable during your procedure.
Regular screenings could save your life.
Because hypertension is subtle, regular screenings can help determine if your blood pressure is putting you at risk. Having it checked at your dental visit is just one more check-up that can go a long ways towards improving your health and avoiding serious conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
At the end of the day, dentists are still health care professionals who want to care for your overall health, and much of that is determined by the state of your mouth. Health care providers have to work together to make sure our patients are safe and healthy, and communication to our patients is key.
So, if the next time you find yourself in the dentist office and your blood pressure is too high to safely perform treatment, trust us and call your doctor to see what you can do about avoiding hypertension.