A History of Patient Comfort (Part III): Comfortably Numb
One of the facets of dentistry that makes it unique in the field of healthcare is the ability to anaesthetize whatever tissues we are working on. This was not always reliably true, which in addition to the fact that our jobs take place in a highly personal, sensitive area of the body, has contributed to our less-than-favourable reputation with the general public. If the discovery of general anaesthesia was the most important advance in medicine ever, which has been suggested, then the discovery of local anaesthesia is probably the most significant one in dentistry.
Cocaine in the form of coca leaves was first used by South American Indians as long as 5000 years ago. They chewed the coca leaf to extract the cocaine for its central nervous system effects. Erythroxylum coca is the plant that contains the highest concentration of cocaine and has historically been grown in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru.2 The effects were first described in writing by Pedro Cieza de Leon in Spain in 1532 when he discussed the habit of leaf chewing by the Peruvian Indians in order to provide exhilaration as well as the energy to work at high altitudes for long periods of time. Although the leaves were introduced to Europe shortly afterwards, interest was lukewarm, in part because the leaves would lose much of their potency when dried for transport. They had a use on their native soil though, since after the Spanish conquest of South America in 1492, workers were needed there to mine silver. While “coqueros” (coca chewers) were formerly linked to the aristocracy of the Incas, they became more common with the increased labour demands from the Old World.read more Source: Peter J. Nkansah, M.Sc., DDS, Dip. Anaes., Specialist in Dental Anaes. | Oral Health Journal