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Oral Surgery Before the Invention of Anesthesia


antique-dentist-chair-austin-oral-surgery-210x300Two things that many people too easily take for granted are teeth and anesthesia. In modern times, most people are used to the concept of anesthesia; it’s something that’s always been readily available for them. And for people with regularly healthy teeth, they don’t have to think about how much pain can be involved when it comes to complications with teeth—or how difficult life can be without them.

But consider the fact that there was a time before the discovery of anesthetic for dental surgery. Tooth extractions would require restraining the patient, and screaming was expected. Furthermore, tooth extractions were basically the most that dental surgeons could offer in terms of solutions to severe tooth pains because that was already at the threshold of pain that the patient could take. Here are some other interesting facts about the condition of oral surgery (and medical surgery in general) before the advent of anesthesia.

Surgery Without Anesthesia

  • Surgery was often treated as a last resort or last ditch effort to end already unbearable pain.

  • Surgeons would sometimes plug their ears with cotton so that the piercing screams of the patient wouldn’t hurt them.

  • Patients needed to be restrained so that their lashing about from the pain wouldn’t disrupt the operation.

  • Sometimes alcohol was used as a way of dulling the pain, but for oral surgery in particular this was unfavorable because it often involved vomiting.

  • Opium was also used as an alternative for dulling out pain, though only mildly effective.

  • Some folk practices believed that mulberry or even lettuce could be consumed as an anesthetic.

  • Sometimes, patients asked to be knocked unconscious with a blow to the head or even strangulation before the procedure.

Aren’t we all so grateful for anesthetic drugs now? Oral surgeons can perform all types of elaborate maneuvers inside a mouth and the patient doesn’t feel a thing. It’s a blessing to both surgeons and patients.

At Austin Oral Surgery, we use the latest technology to treat all of our patients—and we promise we won’t do any of these things to you! If you have any questions about our procedures or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today.