Blocks, Floats and Confidence


After patient care (literally, we have one patient in the hospital to split amongst the 9 of us) into morning, our rotation split off into totalled groups for more individual instruction…but the truth is our school has only one powerfloat to perform dental with, so it tends to be a lot of standing around. While the other group floated teeth, we practiced administering nerve blocks to four primary regions in the head.

Our first exposure to nerve blocks was during 1st year in Small Animal Anatomy, where we learned the anatomical landmarks for sites of administration such as the mental foramen and infra orbital foramen. Second year, our anesthesia course addressed facial nerve blocks in more detail.  As a member of AAEP, I participated in the annual dental labs my first and second year of veterinary school. The AAEP dental lab is one of the more structured, well-funded wet-labs. We practice first on cadavers, then once we have the basic techniques down, we each take turns doing one arcade in a live horse. A large portion of the AAEP lab was centered on blocks and analgesia associated with dental procedures.


Needless-to-say, today I might as well have never heard mention of a nerve block before…almost every since one I struggled with placement. It was frustrating. Nothing like building confidence in a particular skill, only to feel like you’re starting all over again mere months later. What is missing in the confidence and skill equation? Experience. Practice.


I was getting into that dark place of self-doubt and disappointment, not really looking forward to moving onto the floating portion of the day. I still have never floated all four arcades in one horse before, and because of my lack of experience, I would say my technique is far from “smooth.” As someone who doesn’t have a real background in handling power tools, figuring out how to manipulate the powerfloats and dremmels has been a challenge in and of itself.

With encouragement from our dental guru, I just seemed to ease into using the powerfloat and it was the first time I ever felt confident about my dental evaluation, execution of correction and end result. A moderate amount of sharp enamel points were present on the cheek teeth of all arcades. Aside from small hooks on the -03 incisors and doing a very small amount of work on the -06s, the float was fairly straightforward. It felt great to complete the routine dental and was especially satisfying because in vet school there tends to be so many “cooks in the kitchen.” The hierarchy of clinicians, residents, interns and students often times results in dilution of student experience. Especially with the drive for veterinary specialties, there seems to be more residents and interns per department and with everyone wanting experience (and students at the bottom of the pyramid). With less hands-on experience, the ability to develop confidence from shear repetition is reduced.

All in all, the day turned around and what started as a discouraged feeling, ended up becoming an optimistic and satisfied feeling.