Dentist wouldn’t take my blood pressure properly

Simms writes:
I recently had an experience at my dental clinic that reminded me why I end up avoiding medical professionals. I came in for a routine exam and teeth cleaning and it is policy for them to take their patients’ blood pressure since they are students and are still learning to do things properly. I’m always fine with this since even for my weight at 286lbs my blood pressure was always good and in fact I had it checked just two days before and it was great.

The problem came when I saw the cuff she was going to use. I could already tell it was going to be too small and immediately spoke up since a too small cuff will give a high blood pressure reading. She didn’t believe me until she tried to put it on and it barely closed. I asked where their larger cuff was since they had never had a problem before having one on hand. She said it had been broken for a while. That was a bit odd I felt and asked her if she could ask around and see because she was not going to get an accurate reading with a cuff that could barely close around my arm.

So she went off to her teacher and asked about it. After a fairly long time she came back with a slightly larger electronic cuff. Of course as she was putting it on my arm, it too barely closed properly and I could feel the stuff in side not linging up properly. I asked again about a larger cuff. She said that was it and we should just try it and see. Of course it read as dangerously high. It didn’t help that it tightened far too hard on my arm as well, to the point that the next day I had slight bruises from it.

I knew it was going badly though. I have had my BP taken alot from the various clinics I go to so I’m fairly familiar as to how a proper reading should look and feel. I brought up that nothing in my records showed I had no history of high BP and that it was obvious the cuffs were not fitting proper so the reading was obviously not going to be accurate. She went back to her teacher and came back with a wrist cuff. That one couldn’t even close all the way and yet she insisted on trying with it. After getting one last lower reading they decided to “risk” my teeth being cleaned.

I’m glad I stood up for myself about the cuffs but I am still offended that they kept trying despite seeing the equipment not fitting properly and refusing to get the proper sized cuff. Next time I make my appointment there, I’ve got to figure out how to politely make sure there is the proper sized cuff. Though what’s even more galling is they probably wrote down that bad reading with no notes about it into my records.

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  1. Totally uncool that they didn’t have a proper cuff, but I wouldn’t worry too much about the appearance in your record- the preceptor was more making the student go through the motions to learn how to do it (taking a manual pressure is becoming a lost art), not so much for monitoring your health. Hopefully they had a discussion about the need for a proper cuff later on, or the student will bring that up in her supervision class. Sounds like you gave her some good education!

    You can, of course, ask for a copy of the record, and if it says the false BP without any notation, request that they put a note in the chart that a proper cuff was not used.

  2. I recently had a baby in April, and they had to perform a C-section because the baby was breech. As the nurse was prepping me for surgery, she took my blood pressure with a cuff that was too small. Naturally, the reading was high, and she told me that if it was still high when they took it again in the OR, they would have to give me magnesium, which the nurse told me would have some very nasty side effects. Thankfully, the OR nurse who took my vitals right before surgery used the right sized cuff, and my blood pressure reading was perfectly normal. I mentioned the discrepancies in the readings, and the OR nurse said that was probably because the previous nurse used the wrong sized cuff.


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