As a dental hygienist, one of the many things you are taught, is how to properly administer Nitrous Oxide or “Laughing Gas.”
You are taught how to give the patient just the right amount to knock them out but not too much to cause any negative side effects(the list of which is a mile long).
The main issue is under-administration. Newer dental hygienists are afraid of giving the patient too much and harming them. This has probably happened to you once or twice. The dentist will check to see if you are still responsive, and if you are, they pump a little more into you. No problem.
But rarely, over-administration happens. That’s when the hygienist makes a mistake and gives the patient too much gas. I’ve personally never seen this happen before today.
He wasn’t my patient. I want to make that clear. I was sitting in my office finishing up some paperwork for the day when I heard him.
It was the giggling I heard first. It came from the recovery room like a whisper, so faint that it almost sounded like someone was sobbing. I ignored it and went back to work thinking someone was having a reaction to the Nitrous Oxide.
It was several minutes before I noticed that it hadn’t stopped.
But it wasn’t just a giggle now, it was slowly building momentum into a full blown laugh. I got up to check on him.
By the time I got to the recovery room door, the patient was hysterical. He was sitting the corner of the room, arms grasping his own shoulders, head tilted straight back, staring at the ceiling, laughing uncontrollably. These weren’t normal laughs, these were deep guttural laughs, like I’ve never heard before. I knew it had to be a side effect of the Nitrous Oxide, but it still scared me. I’d never seen someone react to it this way.
I went over to check to see if he was able to speak to me. If he was able, he couldn’t get anything out through the laughing. I noticed tears were streaming down his face, I don’t think he was blinking. I went to get the dentist so he could take a look at him because something was definitely wrong here.
The laughing stopped as soon I turned towards the door. I stopped too. The next sound I heard was a sound I was very familiar with, teeth chomping together.
When I turned around, he wasn’t in the corner chair anymore. He was sitting on the lap of the patient a few chairs down. A patient who was still knocked out from her procedure.
From behind, it looked like he was kissing her. His hands were holding the woman’s head on each side, the way they do in romantic comedies. I ran over to pull him off her and when I did, her nose came with him.
She was still unconscious so she didn’t feel her nose being completely gnawed off. The blood was pouring down her face and into her mouth which was still swollen from her procedure. I screamed as one of the other dental assistants came running out of the office to see what was going on.
The patient stood in the middle of the room now, laughs still spilling from behind the nose that was in between his teeth. He charged at me. The other assistant, a 265-pound former army medic, pushed him back into the corner chair and away from us.
He spat the nose at us and stopped laughing… but only for a moment.
The giggling started back up as he dug his fingers under his bottom eyelids. Once he got a good grip, he pulled them both straight down, tearing the skin all the way down his cheeks. I think he started screaming at one point but I couldn’t tell what was screaming and what was laughter.
The skin had ripped in the shape of a triangle, pointing downwards. Instinctively, he tried to blink, but only got halfway there.
He calmly placed both triangles of skin back on his cheeks where they used to live. He stood up and steadied his legs as if he was going to charge again.
But he didn’t.
Through a giant smile, he inserted four fingers into his mouth, grasping his lower jaw. He then placed his other hand on top of the one that was already there.
Before he pulled his lower jaw from everything it was attached to, he looked at me. The smile dissipated and his eyes widened, but for just a second. It was like he was still in there, not in control but aware of what he was doing.
Then, using both hands, he pulled.
It wasn’t multiple pulls either. It was one, long, hard pull.
The popping of tendons was what I heard first. Then it was the tearing of muscle, splitting of skin, and of course the laughter.
He fell back into his chair, mandible swaying side to side. There were just a few strands of skin still keeping it attached. One last tug was all he needed to tear it completely away from his face.
Just as this happened, the other patient, who was now missing a nose, woke up in pure agony, screaming and clawing at her own face.
He looked over at her, then back at us, the giggling started to again creep out of what was left of his mouth.
Still clutching his lower jaw, he held it up to his mouth, to the place it used to live, and made it smile.