The Catch-22 of Anesthesia

During yet another delightful and fun-filled trip to the dentist yesterday I learned something rather interesting. First off, I love my dentist. Aside from being a very good dentist, he and I chat about a wide variety of subjects and we always teach each other something new.

Yesterday was his turn and I came away with an interesting catch-22 of anesthesia.

He mentioned that anesthesia is designed to work within a specific pH range in the body (around 7.2 to 7.4, slightly basic). But he'd recently had a patient who was so torqued up about the dentist visit that he'd sufficiently altered his body chemistry through the release of acidic by-products of adrenaline dumps and from having his muscles contracted for an extended period of time. The result of his body's pH becoming more acidic (probably around 6.7 or thereabouts) was that the anesthesia could not work on him.

It seems that anesthesia loses its effectiveness if it is introduced into an acidic environment. And this patient's own fear had made it so those needles being stuck in his mouth were doing him literally nothing. All because of what his brain was telling his body to do and the by-products of that fear.

How did my dentist resolve it? He sent the patient to an oral surgeon who did the exact same thing the dentist would have done but, because the patient was going to a specialist which put him more at ease, there was no acidic environment and the anesthesia worked as advertised.

So it seems that one can scare oneself into a state where the pain killers cannot function which can work to further antagonize the patient and drive them further and further into a harried and uncomfortable state which just tightens up the vicious cycle until one's head explodes. No wait, it rarely goes that far.

And the inverse holds true, the less uptight you are, the more relaxed you can will yourself to be, the more effective the anesthesia is. I don't particularly like having drills in my mouth and needles and the like but I am able to convince myself that the calmer I am, the better it'll go and I'm right nearly every single time.

But it also helps immensely to have a dentist you like and trust.
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