Stab Lab: Comfortably Numb

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Lidocaine syringe

Today I am writing this with a numb mouth. The left half of my mandible, my cheek, my tongue, and all of my teeth are complete insensate. That’s because my partner Andrew found my lingual, long buccal, incisive, and inferior alveolar nerves while administering anesthesia.

It has been a couple of hours since we stabbed each other, and the anesthetic is finally starting to wear off. Until I regain feeling in my tongue again, I won’t know if Andrew slipped and severe my lingual nerve.

But I’m not worried. We study head and neck anatomy intensively, and we spent this entire quarter prepping for today in our Anesthesia I course.

Right of passage

The anesthesia stab lab is one of the biggest events we look forward to during our first two years of dental school. This is the first time we are practicing actual dentistry on a human subject. Sure, we did a couple of teeth cleanings on patients before this, but local anesthesia is a dentist’s bread and butter. This is the first time we really start to feel like real dentists.

In only a few weeks we will be seeing our first patients in the clinic. Now that I have passed all of the DEX week exams, the OSCE, and my oral exit interview, the only thing between me and third year is six final exams. Although I am numb right now and worried that I may inadvertently chew my tongue, I am comfortably numb.

Hands-on experience

Stab lab is a hands-on experience that caps our first anesthesia course. We still take a paper midterm and final exam, but stab lab gives us the practical experience we need before entering clinic.

For stab lab, we are grouped into teams of three. We work in one of the clinic suites and an instructor watches us inject each other. You get to choose your partners, but the faculty move from one group to another as each prepares to inject. Every faculty member has a slightly different way of doing things.

We learn about a wide variety of anesthetic procedures during our second year. Of course, we also learn about risks and complications associate with anesthesia. Our anesthesia and medical emergencies courses are where pharmacology, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, and oral health sciences all come together.

Below are the blocks we did during stab lab:

Maxilla

  • Posterior Superior Alveolar
  • Middle Superior Alveolar
  • Anterior Superior Alveolar
  • Greater Palatine
  • Nasopalatine (3-step technique)

Mandible

  • Inferior Alveolar
  • Long Buccal
  • Lingual
  • Incisive Nerve Block

More to come

Next year we will really put our anesthesia skills to the test on live patients. We will also have the ability to learn more blocks and techniques from our clinical faculty. Our next anesthesia course will cover nitrous, and courses through the Dental Anesthesia Club will allow us to get IV-sedation training, PALS, and ACLS.

What kinds of anesthesia training do you go through at your school? Share your experiences below!

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