Better Blood Pressure Readings Using BP Cuffs 

July 24, 2023 Lee Ann Brady DMD

In our office, we routinely take our patients’ blood pressure, and we have a variety of cuffs. Most commonly, both hygienists use one of the convenient, digital wrist cuffs. A few months back, they noticed a trend of higher BP readings than they thought were appropriate. We wondered if the wrist cuffs were giving us accurate readings. We did a little research and I decided to reach out to my own primary care physician to ask her advice.

I learned two important things about taking blood pressure:

  1. My physician recommended that we give our patients three to five minutes sitting up in the dental chair, relaxed, and not moving. While pleasant chitchat to reduce anxiety might help, we were advised to steer away from asking any medical history questions and other questions that might produce a bit of anxiety before taking the patient’s blood pressure.
  2. One of the challenges with wrist cuffs is that the cuff is supposed to be at the level of the heart. In a dental chair, the patient is likely to rest their arm on their leg unless we instruct them to do otherwise. She advised that we have the patient take the arm that is wearing the cuff and place it across their chest to hold it at the level of their heart. To be at heart level, the hand shouldn’t come up to the shoulder but be horizontal with the elbow.

My physician asked me if we have arm cuffs that go above the elbow. I told her that we have two digital arm cuffs. She said she prefers using the arm cuffs herself because they tend to be more accurate than a wrist cuff, especially in picking up subtle variations.

This great information has enabled us to take blood pressure readings with more confidence and would be valuable to share with your team members who measure blood pressure. 

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About Author

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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