Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a colorless gas typically used in dental settings for sedation and pain relief. The gas is given to the patient through a small nosepiece and is designed to create a feeling of calmness and relaxation. While under nitrous sedation, patients remain awake and alert. Patients are still able to hear and see what is going on around them and can respond to questions or instructions given by the dentist. Although nitrous sedation is most commonly used on children and teens, adults can also benefit from the effects of laughing gas.
How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?
Nitrous oxide is inhaled through the nose, causing a slowdown in the body’s reaction time. The result is a calm and euphoric feeling. It functions as a mild sedative and can also be effective in treating pain. Due to these properties, it is commonly used during dental procedures to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. What makes nitrous oxide so useful is that it works fast and takes just a few minutes for the effects to wear off. It is also considered safe and most people who receive it do not have adverse reactions.
During a dental procedure that requires nitrous sedation, the patient is sat in a dental chair and a nosepiece is placed over their nose. It does not cover the mouth. In just a short amount of time, the patient will begin to feel relaxed and maybe a little bit sleepy. Some people describe laughing gas as a floaty, warm, or dreamy sensation, while others feel tingling in their hands and feet. Children, in particular, may not remember the procedure afterwards.
While receiving nitrous oxide, the patient’s level of sedation is monitored by staff. Depending on the procedure, local anesthetics may also be given to prevent pain. Local anesthetics can be given after administering the laughing gas. Many people wonder if laughing gas actually makes you laugh. In most people, the answer is no. It can; however, create a euphoria (intense happiness or excitement) which is where the term ‘laughing gas’ originated.
The Effects of Nitrous Sedation
While receiving nitrous oxide, patients are encouraged to lie back in the dental chair and relax. Although nitrous oxide is an odorless gas, it is normal to smell a faint, sweet aroma. Many pediatric dentists provide children with colorful nose masks that are pre-scented with familiar odors like orange, cherry, or bubblegum. This can make the experience more pleasurable for young patients.
Nitrous oxide tends to make time appear to pass more quickly. It also raises a person’s pain threshold. Parents who are worried about how their child may respond to the sights or smells of a dental procedure may want to consider nitrous oxide to resolve these concerns. The effects of nitrous sedation wear off quickly once the gas has stopped. Most patients are able to return to their normal routine directly after their appointment.
Advantages of Nitrous Oxide
There are many advantages of using nitrous oxide, including the following:
- Nitrous sedation is safe for patients of all ages and can be useful for anyone who may be fearful of the dentist.
- Nitrous sedation works rapidly, reaching the brain in just 20 seconds. Pain-killing properties and relaxation begin developing after just two to three minutes.
- The level of sedation can be modified at any time, allowing the person administering the gas to increase or decrease the amount as necessary.
- Nitrous oxide does not produce a “hangover” effect like some other sedation drugs. The gas is eliminated from the body in just three to five minutes once the supply of gas is stopped.
- Patients are usually able to drive themselves home after the procedure, meaning no escort is needed.
- Unlike IV sedation, no injections are required for nitrous sedation.
- There are few side effects and the drug has no ill effects on the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, or brain.
- Nitrous oxide has been found effective in minimizing or eliminating severe gagging in people with a higher than normal gag reflex.
Contact Bonham Dental Arts
Interested in having nitrous sedation with your upcoming procedure? Bonham Dental Arts promotes dental health and wellness through the delivery of professional family dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and sedation dentistry. Contact our office today to make an appointment.