Most people tend to see their dentist and/or hygienist more often than their physician. Routine dental exams and cleanings are usually indicated every 3-6 months depending upon one’s periodontal gum health. It is important to gain a baseline and follow those readings over the years to catch early signs of high blood pressure if they occur.
Undiagnosed hypertension, aka high blood pressure, can lead to kidney disease, stroke, and heart attack/failure. Because most people who have high blood pressure do not have any signs or symptoms, it is not uncommon for some people to have no idea they are living their everyday life at a higher risk for complications. It may be your dentist who first notices this elevation if they are routinely screening their patients at their new patient exams and follow up visits. This is especially true if you do not routinely see your primary care physician.
“White coat syndrome” is a phenomenon where some patients may experience high spikes in blood pressure just by being in a clinical environment. Couple that with the stress of seeing the dentist or having a dental procedure done with local anesthesia, it may become a receipt for disaster.
Local anesthetics are commonly used in dental procedures to help block the pain receptors. What most people do not know is that most of these drugs are mixed with something called epinephrine. Epinephrine is a natural hormone released by our adrenal glands during times of stress. Another effect it has is raising blood pressure. In dentistry it is used to help make the anesthetics last longer so that multiple injections are not needed through out the procedure. If your blood pressure is too high already your dentist may suggest using an anesthetic without epinephrine or deferring treatment altogether until you can see your primary care physician. You may be playing Russian Roulette if you do not have your blood pressure checked prior to having an injection for dental treatment.
Pregnant women are at high risk for complications if they have an elevated blood pressure. It is now common practice that OBGYN’s and Pediatric physicians recommend their patients continue seeing their dentist and hygienist for routine cleanings. Because of this, more and more pregnant women are maintaining routine cleaning schedules through term. It is imperative to have blood pressure monitored at these appointments as high blood pressure may lead to a serious condition known as pre-eclampsia. Even though a patients OB will routinely monitor their patients, changes can occur rapidly during pregnancy and your hygienist or dentist may be the first to notice these changes and make the appropriate referral.