Hypertension (high blood pressure) is an asymptomatic disease that typically remains undetected until your doctor takes your blood pressure. Unless your blood pressure is dangerously elevated (180/110 and higher), you probably won’t feel any warning signs. Sustained blood pressure readings of 200/140 often produce severe headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Dentists understand that while most of their patients visit them at least twice a year for checkups and often times more frequently for dental cleaning, the same patients may not visit their family doctor for several years (most people don’t go to their doctor unless they are sick or feel abnormal). This means dentists will always have better access to checking a patient’s important health markers like blood pressure, blood glucose level and heart functioning than medical doctors.
What Your Blood Pressure Readings Mean
High Systolic Blood Pressure
The systolic number is the upper number in a blood pressure reading and represents the amount of blood flow pushing against vessel walls as the heart pumps blood into the body. Systolic numbers above 140 indicate hypertension, even if the bottom number (diastolic) is below 99.
High Diastolic Blood Pressure
Diastolic hypertension means that the pressure of blood flow against vessel walls between heartbeats is excessive. A normal diastolic number should be around 80 to 85. Numbers above 99 indicate possible hypertension. Reasons for diastolic hypertension center more on the aging process and “wear and tear” of heart muscles rather than the weight and diet issues that influence systolic pressure.
Why Tracking Blood Pressure Readings is Vital to Your Good Health
Called the “silent killer” for obvious reasons, untreated high blood pressure will eventually lead to heart attack, stroke and/or kidney failure. Consequently, more dentists are starting to take their patients’ blood pressure before cleanings or dental procedures as part of a comprehensive, long-term health plan.
If your dentist discovers your blood pressure is too high, he will advise you to seek additional medical treatment from your family physician. Medications to control high blood pressure dilate blood vessels so that blood flows more freely throughout the body to lower and stabilize blood pressure.
Common reasons underlying chronic hypertension are:
- over weight
- lack of exercise
- unhealthy lifestyle
- undiagnosed sleep disorders
Benefits of Blood Pressure and Heart Monitoring at the Dentist’s Office
The dental anesthetics affect each patient differently, depending on their age and current state of health. Patients who receive anesthesia may bleed more during an extraction, especially if they are taking blood pressure medication or they have high blood pressure that is uncontrolled. The local anesthetics contain epinephrine, a hormone similar to adrenaline that helps prolong numbing of the gums. And in addition to these important things we have the larger issue at hand which is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or Sleep Breathing Disorder (SBD). Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure and High Blood Pressure are the most common symptom in adults for this deadly disease. In essence your dentist could save your life by taking your blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Medications and Oral Health
Some high blood pressure medications interrupt normal saliva flow and cause a chronic dry mouth. Dry mouth is responsible for halitosis, an increase in mouth lesions (canker sores) and oral fungal infections. Dry mouth also encourages growth of anaerobic bacteria, the primary cause of cavities and gum disease. We know the medication is imperative to your health and if you take medications for high blood pressure, the dentist or hygienist may recommend more preventive and frequent maintenance appointments to ensure that you’re in good oral and physical health. ( a few extra dollars per year will save you thousands of dollars in the future)
Make Sure Your Dentist is all about Your Blood Pressure!
By screening your blood pressure and monitoring your heart rate, your dentist is taking the measures to ensure your safety and comfort at the dentist office and at home.