An Experiential Comparison of General Anaesthetic and Dental Sedation

Guest post by my wife, Jodi. Taking care of her yesterday and today, combined with Skyrim which we purchased to give her something to do and me something to obsess over (other than her), has lead to a dearth of time for blog commenting; apologies. I’m sure there’s lots of SIWOTI out there to eat up our time, but we have our priorities, you know! For now, enjoy this story from my drug-addled and pained wife.

(For my own recollect mostly, but you never know, maybe some first timers will get something useful out of it.)

When I was seven years old I had my tonsils removed, which required being put under. Ever since then I have found medical sedation to be rather fascinating. I’ve never been afraid of it, instead always feeling a sense of eager curiosity. Yesterday I had my wisdom teeth removed and I had been told that the kind of sedation I would be getting was not at all the same as general anaesthetic where they put you under completely. Having had two day surgeries that used general anaesthetic within one week of each other (and thus cementing the experience in my mind) almost three years ago I thought this would be a great opportunity to compare them.

For me, the general anaesthetic experience went like this. After putting all the various monitors on me (which incidentally made me a little concerned for my heart – it sounded pretty irregular), they had me make a fist and put the IV drip in my arm. I watched the doctor place the syringe in the line, looked up at the ceiling, took a few deep breaths from the oxygen mask then the world blurred, my eyes crossed, and my vision faded to black in a nice closing oval/tunnel shape. I then immediately opened my eyes and couldn’t help but fidget around trying to shake the feeling of immobility. Though I heard the nurses warning to not fight it and go back to sleep my body seemed to have ideas of it’s own, ideas that clearly involved me not being safe. And that was it. It was easy, quick, and I felt more refreshed than I had in weeks, pretty awesome.

Having experienced that three times in total in my life, I was actually pretty excited to try a different kind of sedation. So yesterday when the dental surgeon decided to sit and chat with me for 20 minutes I couldn’t help but think “Alright! Let’s get on with it!”.

This time the IV drip went in the back of my hand after they tipped my chair back and attached a finger monitor and some blood pressure arm bands. He placed three syringes in the line in total and I remember commenting that it was really cold, for which he apologized. He then said that I would momentarily start to feel like I was falling backward, which I did almost instantly. My head started to swim and I was having a hard time focusing my eyes, not unlike being drunk. There was a window and some trees to look at but it was very windy outside and I soon decided it was far too much effort to try to keep my eyes focused on the damn things if they were going to move around like that. So I gave in and closed my eyes.

I was asked to open my mouth, but the request seemed far away. I felt them put two splint things in my mouth to hold it open and then there were two sharp pinches in the back where my wisdom teeth were. I assume that was the needles for the local freezing but I really don’t know since my sense of time disappeared. I know that the pinching hurt, but I just didn’t care. It was a little weird to feel pain but not react to it the way I should and I briefly thought about this before going back to not caring. Then there was some identifiable movement, I could tell they were working on my teeth but in a very removed and abstract kind of way. I also don’t remember any sounds at all. The final thing I felt was two firm pressing sensations on either side, which I assume was the gauze as they then pulled the splint things out and asked me to bite down (again this request is hard to remember).

Something made me open my eyes, and the nurse asked how I felt. I don’t remember how I responded. She said she would get me a wheelchair, then there was a wheelchair and she told me to take my time getting up and into it. I tried to put the foot rest down on my own, it was slightly problematic. I got wheeled out to the front desk where Jason was waiting and I tried really hard to focus and ask if he had paid. I think I got ‘Did you do the thing?’ out and he replied. I put my sweater on and got wheeled out to the car where I carefully zipped it up (again it was like being drunk, those tiny little zippers are a pain). The car ride home is very spotty now as there wasn’t really much for me to think about and I closed my eyes a few times. Jason says that my recall of all this is amazing, I suspect it’s because I was thinking about it a lot and really trying.

So those were the differences I experienced between the two. I admit that when I first heard about the dental sedation I was a bit wary. I didn’t really like the idea of being aware but not remembering it later, but I was still curious enough to not opt for the other dental office that does full sedation. Now that it’s over, I’d so do it again. I felt great after the grogginess wore off, but the feeling of not caring stayed. Too bad it didn’t last longer.

An Experiential Comparison of General Anaesthetic and Dental Sedation

7 thoughts on “An Experiential Comparison of General Anaesthetic and Dental Sedation

  1. F

    Oh, so they didn’t offer you anything to drink when you regained consciousness? I was offered quite a few things from a list, and coffee seemed like the most awesome thing in the world at the moment.

    Coffee in your lap is hot.

  2. 3

    She didn’t drink anything but water for the first few hours, then after that, a chocolate banana milkshake. No hot liquids for the first four, explicitly.

    I can’t imagine trying to do coffee with limbs that don’t respond to your commands — I did the amnesiac anaesthesia when I had my four wisdom teeth out myself. I remember far less than Jodi did, but I know that I wouldn’t have managed to even ask for coffee, much less manage to spill it successfully in my lap.

  3. 4

    I once had spinal anesthesia when I underwent surgery on my lower body. I had a pleasant conversation with the anesthesiologist while the surgery team worked at the other end. I was fully conscious and coherent the entire time and couldn’t feel a thing from my waist on down. I found it preferable to the post-anesthesia grogginess that Jodi described.

  4. 5

    The only thing that bothers me about anaesthesia is, when you’re coming out of it, and all you wanna do is go back to sleep, you got people poking and prodding and telling you to wake up, that you NEED to wake up NOW, please just go away and let me “surface” at my own pace, I get GRUMPY when you rush me, and I guarantee it will be far more pleasant for EVERYONE involved if you just. go. AWAY. and let me sleep it off!

    I’m sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant. Heh. Shutting up, now.

  5. 6

    WMDKitty, I definitely had the opposite problem. People are always telling me to take my time and sleep it off, don’t fight it. My body obviously has a paranoid survival instinct though thinking that state of being is a dangerous one to be in, so I fight back.

  6. rob

    when i got braces, i had to have four teeth pulled. i forget what they used, but it was IV and they said it takes about 10 seconds to hit you. i wanted to stay awake as long a possible. they told me to count backward from ten. i counted ten, nine, eight…they woke up.

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