In a survey conducted by Malamed of over 2,700 dentists in North America, it was reported approximately 14,000 potentially life-threatening emergencies occurred while patients were in their dental practice. High blood pressure is linked to risk factors that fall into two categories: risk factors that are outside the patient’s control, such as family history, age, gender, and race and risk factors that the patient can control, such as lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, overweight or obese, and drinking too much alcohol. Tobacco use, stress, and sleep apnea are additional risk factors that contribute to high blood pressure, but are still being researched on their correlation to high blood pressure.
Taking patients’ blood pressure during dental examinations is critical to their overall health. High blood pressure is a proven risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart failure, stroke, and renal (kidney) disease. A baseline blood pressure reading should be established and then monitored at future dental appointments by allied dental staff. The patient should be told what their blood pressure reading is each time so that they can keep track of differences themselves. Blood pressure readings might need to be taken a few times to reflect a more accurate reading for diagnoses and when referring to medical professionals. Factors that may affect the accuracy of blood pressure readings include caffeine, recent physical activity, smoking, and stress to name a few. Screening for blood pressure by the dental professional has proven to be extremely effective since many patients with hypertension may be unaware of their condition. Establishing a baseline reading for your patient in a non-stress producing environment produces a more accurate reading if you need to make a medical referral. Screening for blood pressure by the dental professional has proven to be extremely effective since many patients with hypertension may be unaware of their condition.