Initially, Oral Surgery can be intimidating! To help build your confidence and skills, I reached out to my colleague, Dr. Faranak Hamedooni, who was an oral surgery clerk during her D4 year. I have always admired Faranak’s work ethic, and ability to make authentic connections with classmates and patients. I’m confident you will find her top four pieces of advice for OS extremely useful as you begin rotations through Oral Surgery!
People close to me have heard me tell this story a million times: the first time I watched an extraction in person, I fainted. The combination of the sights and sounds and smells made my stomach churn, and next thing I knew I was on the bathroom floor almost unconscious. When I got to dental school, I found out that feeling faint while performing surgery or assisting with one is common for new students! By the end of my fourth year, I was comfortable doing routine and surgical extractions and I’m happy to share a few tips and tricks to hopefully make your life in oral surgery clinic easier.
1. Know your patient. It sounds simple enough, right? Be kind, get to know your patient and take a thorough medical and dental history. I’ve found most patients are good historians if you make them feel comfortable by having a judgment-free conversation instead of reading off a list of medical issues right off the bat. Remember, you need to know as much about your patient as you can to perform procedures safely.
2. Know your medical emergency protocols. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip because knowing your patient well can help you anticipate and prepare for any potential medical emergencies. Each school is different in specifics, but the essence of managing medical emergencies is similar. Some common medical emergencies in the dental chair are syncope, panic attack, asthma attack, hypo/hyperglycemia and cardiac arrest to name a few. Remember, if the face is pale, raise the tail. (In case of syncope, place patient in Trendelenburg position). [NOTE: See my post on Managing Clinic Emergencies for more information]!
3. Know your instruments. Experimenting with different instruments is fun, but you should know the basic instruments available to you at your school. If you don’t know which forceps to use or what it’s called, ask! If you forget, ask again! Once you are more comfortable with surgery, you might notice you have your favorite instruments and tend to use them more often. Remember, 151 under the sun. (151 forceps can be used to extract mandibular premolars, anterior teeth and root tips.)
4. Learn proper technique from the get-go. Find an upperclassman or faculty who is willing, available and knowledgeable to teach you proper technique for ergonomics, patient positioning, anesthesia, incision, elevation, extraction, curettage, suturing, etc. Don’t fumble through procedures uncertainly and develop bad habits. Remember, it will be so much easier in the long run if you learn it right the first time.
Surgery can be fulfilling and fun and fascinating if you are willing to learn and practice! Once you are more comfortable in OS, don’t forget to offer a helping hand to your underclassmen!
What advice do you have for rotating through oral surgery? Comment below!