I just read an article in a dental journal about taking accurate blood pressure. Students have been learning how to take blood pressure in dental and dental hygiene programs for years now. The article I read discusses the inaccuracies in the way we screen for blood pressure in the dental office setting.
I am not here to judge, because as I look at the textbook we used in our dental hygiene program to train students to take blood pressure, I notice we are perpetuating the unreliable nature of getting blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends you wait a couple of minutes after being seated in the room before taking a patient’s blood pressure. Have your feet flat on the floor when the blood pressure is taken. The cuff should be at the level of the heart and your arm supported. Don’t talk. We should always take the blood pressure on the same arm. Gosh, the list goes on. See the nice graphic from the American Heart Association.
Unfortunately, the dental office breaks these rules often. Sitting back in the dental chair automatically brings our feet off the floor. Often the patient continues to talk, which is sometimes brought on by the hygienist asking them questions.
I think the blood pressure screening is a good thing. I think we also need to be our own advocates. Ask about your blood pressure after it has been taken. If you think it is high, ask that it be taken again before you leave. Sit up. Put your feet on the floor. Don’t talk. Ask again what the reading is.
My guess is your pressure will be lower after your dental cleaning than it was before. If it is still high, have the clinician write down both pressures on a card, along with the times they were taken. You can always drop by your physician’s office and ask if they could take it again.
High blood pressure is called the silent killer for a reason. Please share this info with your friends and colleagues!
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