If the concept of giving local anesthetic injections wasn’t already anxiety producing, the name of the practice lab is sure to create some butterflies in your stomach. At least that is what happened to me. I knew I had the knowledge of where the nerves and the arteries were, how to position the needle, and how far to insert the needle into the tissues, but the idea of performing this procedure on a live patient still seemed a daunting task.
As the day of Stab Lab grew closer, I started obsessing over the Local Anesthetic book, asking professors for tips, going over and over oral landmarks to assist in making the injections, even watching YouTube videos. Nothing seemed to make me feel more comfortable with “stabbing” my partner until I got the fact through my head that I will be doing this every day of my professional life! I had better get used to and become efficient at doing injections now so that I can begin to focus on all the other aspects of dentistry that come after the local anesthetic injection.
With this profound realization in my head, I still went into Stab Lab nervous. I was at the brink of being confident that I would do a good job, which showed personal progress compared to where I started. Setting up the clinic chair and talking to my classmates helped diffuse the apparent tension on the fourth floor. Then came the time to perform the injections on my partner. All I can say is that it was AWESOME! After you do your first injection, you get a feel for the needle and how it moves in the soft tissue. You get feedback from your instructor who is by your side the entire time, telling you to do this and do that. The fear slowly melted away and I felt more confident doing my last two injections…finally.
I learned that the anxiety was helpful because it made me slow down and really focus on what I was doing. I was able to pick up on cues my partner was giving, which were subtle but useful in helping me learn how to respond when my future patients react the same way. This is a huge step in becoming a dentist, and I can say with pride that our whole class did a great job in administering local anesthetic for the first time. Overall, it was a great experience and there was no need to be fearful to begin with. By the second semester of your second year, you are ready to learn local anesthetic techniques.