This is kind of a weird request, but I'd like for Margaret Fehrenbach to numb me in the ol' skull cave at least once before I die.

Feb. 17, 2016
It may be hard to set up a good time, though.

It may be hard to set up a good time, though. She's in Seattle, and I'm in Oklahoma. Plus, I don't need to be anesthetized that often. There never seems to be enough time to ask, "Margaret, can you come down later this week and numb me?" I've heard her lecture several times, and I have worked with her as an editor, including for the article on page 72. I think if anyone can make the experience of anesthesia sort of fun, it would be her.

On one occasion, we exchanged emails about corrections to an article she wrote. She thanked me for my role in the process, and said, "Now I wish I could have you over for the ice cream treat I just had. Mini dip of two tablespoons on all fronts to cut the calories: French vanilla ice cream with caramel topping sprayed with sea salt. You so deserve it!" I didn't have the heart to tell her I need more than two tablespoons.

I enjoy the long-distance chats with one of the leading advocates of pain-control techniques used by dental hygienists. I wanted to ask her about how that advocacy is working out, since most states now do allow hygienists to administer anesthesia. Margaret herself remembers the frustration of having to learn about anesthesia after a family relocation in the 1970s. "I was overwhelmed and a bit angry that I had to start from scratch on anything."

She teaches anesthetic techniques to dental hygienists, which seems daunting to me. She said, "I always have to remember that not everyone is onboard with local anesthesia as a dental hygienist, or wanting to know more about it, or caring about the more involved blocks."

One of my favorite comments from her involved perhaps her oldest student. "No one could say they were too old (to learn anesthesia). I taught a 75-year-old who soon died of cancer. It kept her going to keep up with the tide of change. Her bruises from her therapy on her hands were something I will never forget. And her nature to keep going in the face of death."

Margaret picked up the fundamentals and more advanced techniques for anesthesia from three primary mentors-a Wisconsin endodontics instructor, a Seattle periodontist, and a general dentist employer she worked with for many years. "I found the more you do it, the more you get comfortable with it," she said. "I had patients hugging me afterward, and that sure helps! When I tried to give local anesthesia to my first felon, however, that did unnerve me, and he would not let me touch his mouth as a result of my shaking. Hey, I would be the same way. You learn to steel yourself to make sure you can do the job and not overthink it all. These are the most important lessons I would say as words of encouragement to dental hygienists who express a reluctance to obtain certification. Just do it, and do it again, and do it again!"

Margaret is also a featured speaker at the upcoming RDH Under One Roof conference in Maryland on July 28-30.

Mark Hartley

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