Stuck in the fast lane

Where the heck have I been, huh? Maybe traveling the world on an opulent cruising vessel? On a safari in Africa helping photograph the most rare and close-to-extinct species that are left? Stuck in a secret lab five miles beneath the earth’s surface in order to study cancer cells and find the ultimate cure?

Sadly, no.

I’m sorry to say I’ve done nothing exciting, adventurous, or as contributing to our species as above.

Rather, I’ve been very much stuck in school.

(Uh, boring!)

Last quarter was crazy. Trying to get used to the clinic was a whole new experience for me. Now, I like the dental part of dentistry: the attention to details, the possible perfection, the precise hand skills that I’ve always wanted to showcase. On the other hand, it didn’t really hit me that dental school consists of so much more once you look past a person’s teeth. For each and every patient, I am many more things than just a dentist to them. I play all roles, including: secretary, office manager, dental assistant, dental hygienist, financial adviser, insurance coordinator, lab technician, and even personal therapist.

All I can say is that these many roles have left me with one thing: drained.

This quarter has been stressful as well. I’m also discovering the true extent of my stress these days. When I think about the kinds of topics that have generally been on my mind, I’ve realized that it mostly has to do with school and patients–and that I’ve been letting it stress me out much more than I should.

Let’s take a vacation! Or maybe I can just get a massage, anyone?

On a daily basis?

Hourly?

….No? Well, I thought I’d try.

— — —

Today I experienced something new: I’ve finally extracted my first set of teeth on a patient! Two different teeth, actually. And teeth that were in the more difficult side of the mouth for me (the upper left). Now, I can’t take all the credit–the dentist in charge of the urgent care clinic was nice enough to help me out with some parts. Otherwise, I actually did most of it. (!)

I would say that the worst part for the patient was the anesthesia administration. Don’t get me wrong, I got her quite numb (very, actually) but, of course, there were a few winces along the way. (I’m still working on completely painless anesthesia.) After laying a flap with a surgical blade and cutting away some bone in front of one tooth and splitting another into pieces with a drill, I used elevators and hardly any forceps to extract the remaining parts of her teeth. The instructor then followed up and did two sutures for me that I wanted to see done.

(On a side note, in instances like this, I am amazed at how well local anesthesia works. Sure, the little needle prick sucks, but there is SO MUCH that can be done for the benefit of patient once they get to the point where they can’t feel anything. I mean, I essentially sliced open this patient’s gums and peeled them back so I was looking at her jaw bone. Amazing! Dentistry has come such a long way ever since the discovery nitrous oxide and local anesthesia.)

Considering that I have never extracted a tooth before, I was pleasantly surprised at the experience. I was quite lost for a while, but once someone got me going, I was okay. I guess what has bothered me the most about not having any oral surgery experience is that you can’t prepare for the feeling of extracting a tooth without actually doing it. Before pushing the blade down the side of the tooth to the point where it contacted bone and released attachment ligaments, I hadn’t the slightest idea of what it would feel like, of what tactile sensations I would be experiencing that would tell me whether I was doing it right or not. When I was pushing the elevator down the root surface and gently yet forcefully rotating the instrument between the tooth and the bone, I didn’t know what kind of feedback my hands were supposed to be receiving.

Thankfully, some sort of gut instinct kicked in and I did everything right.

Phew!

Technically, after using elevators to inch your way down the tooth by severing attachments and expanding bone, a person usually reaches for the forceps and starts pushing (aka “pulling”) the tooth out. I probably could have reached for forceps much sooner but ended up getting all the teeth and roots very much loose with only the use of the elevator.

All I can say is: fabulous–there is hope for me with getting through oral surgery procedures after all.

— — —

After another extremely busy day filled with lack of sleep and food, I’m back home, lying on the couch, exhausted. I do not want to go back to school to practice for mock board exams tomorrow, I do not want to study. All I want to do is curl up, watch a movie, and pet the dog.

Sounds good to me.

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