Nitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” administered during a dental procedure helps relax patients who have a severe fear of needles and dentists, or have previously had traumatic experiences with a dentist. Nitrous is very useful for those who have difficulty getting numb, or those who cannot handle the sensory input like smells and noises present in a dentist’s office.
The dentist will administer the sedative gas through a mask that fits over your nose. As the patient breathes normally, the nitrous oxide, mixed with oxygen, helps you relax. Studies show that using nitrous oxide as a light sedative during dental procedures makes patients perceive less pain.
It is not intended to put you to sleep. Patients remain conscious throughout the procedure and retain the ability to respond to questions and directions from the dentist.
Safety & Effectiveness of Nitrous Oxide
Studies have shown that Nitrous Oxide is safe and only has a temporary sedative effect on both children and adults. Dentists have been using nitrous oxide since 1844. It is the most tested and probably safest sedative in dentistry.
Most patients tolerate it well, and it is non-allergenic. The dentist can adjust the concentration for individual requirements. Patients remain conscious and maintain all natural reflexes when breathing the mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. The effects of the gas wear off within minutes of discontinuing the flow through the mask.
Experience of Nitrous Oxide
Your dentist places a small nose mask on you and instructs you to breathe normally. You’ll feel the effect immediately upon inhaling, and your dentist will adjust the oxygen/nitrous mix until you are comfortable. Most people experience a sense of relaxation and a feeling that time has altered.
The effects of Nitrous Oxide wear off very quickly. Within minutes after the gas flow has stopped, people report feeling back to normal. Adult patients who have been administered nitrous oxide are capable of driving and returning to work after a brief observation period. Children can return to full activities after a brief observation as well.
Sinus congestion can limit the effectiveness of nitrous oxide because your ability to breathe through your nose is impaired. As always, tell your dentist about all medical conditions and medications you are taking.
Ask Your Dentist
Ask your dentist about using nitrous oxide during your procedure if you are tense, have dental phobias, have an easily triggered gag reflex, or are difficult to numb. The American Dental Association affirms that it is a safe and effective means of managing pain and anxiety in dentistry when used appropriately.