Can a Visit to the Dentist Cause High Blood Pressure?

For some people, a trip to any medical provider can cause anxiety. And that can result in high blood pressure readings even if their blood pressure is typically normal.

This phenomenon — known as white coat hypertension (or white coat syndrome) — affects an estimated 15 to 30 percent of people with high blood pressure readings in the dentist’s office.

The condition is called “white coat” because blood pressure spikes in medical and dental settings.

Let’s face it, most of us don’t like going to see a medical professional or undergo dental or medical procedures. A possible cause is simply that some people are anxious over what their blood pressure reading will be or over the act of having their blood pressure taken. Age is also a possible factor for white coat hypertension as it occurs more frequently in people over the age of 60.

Many medical experts see white coat hypertension as a benign condition. But a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2015 suggested that it is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers found an increased risk of stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and other signs of cardiovascular disease in people with white coat hypertension compared with those who had normal blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office.

Managing White Coat Hypertension

Before you strap on the blood pressure cuff, keep these tips in mind for a normal reading:

  1. Relax
    If you’re feeling anxious or worried when you sit down to have your blood pressure measured, let the doctor/nurse/assistant know and ask the provider to wait a bit so that you can calm yourself.
  1. Move to a different area
    Sometimes the treatment rooms in an office can cause anxiety because you notice the various pieces of equipment or you aren’t comfortable.  Ask if you can move to a quiet area so you can get a more accurate measurement.
  1. Practice stress relief
    Find a technique that helps you calm yourself when you’re anxious or stressed. For example, breathe deeply and exhale slowly several times before your blood pressure reading. Reciting a poem or verse in your mind may help you relax also.  Visualize a pleasant scene, the woods, beach or a beautiful sunset. At our office you can ask for our Bose headphones that play soothing music. Try different methods or combinations of methods to see which works best for you.

When you visit our office for an appointment, we run through several exams designed to evaluate and help you maintain good oral health.  One of those is checking your blood pressure.

I am, and have long been, a strong advocate of the powerful link between oral health and a person’s overall health. If your blood pressure reading is high, we will alert you to see your regular health care provider to make sure you are not at risk for serious disease.

In good health,

Dr. Poz