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But this well-meant practice drew fire from anesthesiologists and health authorities, on several grounds. Dentists, even oral surgeons, rarely had formal training in anesthesiology or experience with many of the new agents introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. Even if they had, it was often impossible for one person both to perform the operative procedure and to monitor the patient's physiological status. The difficulty of monitoring was further complicated by the lack of information about the side effects of such new agents as sodium pentothal and sodium methohexital -- a particularly dangerous ignorance in light of the fact that patients generally left the dentist's office within an hour after the procedure. For all these reasons, dental anesthesia was condemned as unsafe, although there were few documented cases of patient injury.

Problems with general anesthesia in dentistry, 1960

  • Lack of training and experience
  • Lack of staff
  • Lack of data about agents used

A graph illustrating a cycle of fear and pain. Clinical pain leads to a painfuldental therapy, followed by postoperative pain and apprehension to avoidance of dental care, which leads to dental pathology and clinical pain
Cycle of Fear and Pain. From Raymond A. Dionne, Pain Control in Dentistry: The Basis for Rational Therapy. Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry v. 6 (1985): 16.