"White Coat Syndrome" And How It Affects Your Dental Appointments

9 January 2019
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


As you head into your dentist's office for a routine exam and/or cleaning, you may be thinking that you are fine and everything is calm and normal. Many dentists take your blood pressure before providing any care, and you may find that your blood pressure is higher than normal blood pressure. You might ask the hygienist or dentist to take it again or take it on the opposite arm, but it's still a little high. So you sit fifteen minutes later, it is lower than before, but still the dentist will not treat you. What gives?

Well, first and foremost, dentists are starting to refuse patients with high blood pressure because Novocaine drives up blood pressure, which could cause some people to have a stroke or heart attack in the dentist's chair. Even if you are not having any restoration work done, the dentist wants you to address the high blood pressure first. The problem is that you may not actually have high blood pressure. You may have "white coat syndrome." Here is more on that, and how it affects your dental appointments.

​White Coat Syndrome

​White coat syndrome is what happens when people with normal to slightly elevated blood pressure meet with doctors, nurses, dentists, or anyone else in a medical field. Unwittingly, they begin to tense up, even if they feel calm. The conscious or subconscious anxiety begins to build, and the minute their blood pressure is taken, it is suddenly through the roof. 

The building anxiety of having to wait, coupled with that moment when you are finally in an exam room being examined, causes a jump in your blood pressure. It has been documented that people with normal blood pressure at home will suddenly have high blood pressure in a doctor's office or clinic. The syndrome is named for the traditional white lab coats medical professionals have worn in the past, but rarely wear now. Meeting with medical, dental, and health professionals causes this syndrome to occur. 

How the Syndrome Affects Your Dental Appointments

​Sadly, there is almost nothing you can do about white coat syndrome, except to work with your family doctor to recognize and diagnose it. You cannot take blood pressure medication if your blood pressure is normal at home but spikes in medical offices. An anti-anxiety medication taken for a week before your appointment may​ help, but the interaction with any Novocaine is still a problem. If your dentist knows that you have been diagnosed with white coat syndrome and that your family doctor will not prescribe hypertension medication, then your dentist may offer to anesthetize you to calm you, reduce your blood pressure in his/her presence, and then treat your teeth.

Contact a dentist in your area to learn more about your options.