Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas)
Nitrous Oxide is a sweet-smelling, non-irritating, colorless gas that you can breathe.
Nitrous Oxide has been the primary means of sedation in dentistry for many years. Nitrous oxide is safe, the patient receives 50-70% oxygen with no less than 30% nitrous oxide.
The patient is able to breathe on their own and remains in control of all bodily functions.
The patient may experience mild amnesia and may fall asleep, not remembering all of what happened during their appointment.
There are many advantages to using Nitrous Oxide
- The depth of sedation can be altered at any time to increase or decrease sedation.
- There is no after effect such as a “hangover”.
- Inhalation sedation is safe with no side effects on your heart and lungs, etc.
- Inhalation sedation is very effective in minimizing gagging.
- It works rapidly as it reaches the brain within 20 seconds. In as little as 2-3 minutes its relaxation and pain killing properties develop.
Reasons to not use Nitrous Oxide
You should not utilize Nitrous Oxide if you have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Though there are no other major contraindications to using nitrous oxide, you may not want to use it if you have emphysema, exotic chest problems, M.S., a cold or other difficulties with breathing.
You may want to ask your dentist for a “5-minute trial” to see how you feel with this type of sedation method before proceeding.
How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?
Nitrous oxide is a sedative that comes in the form of a gas. We administer it to you through a nasal gas mask and you inhale nitrous oxide along with oxygen. As you inhale, your brain will quickly start to feel the effects of the gas.
Most people feel the onset of the effects within 3 minutes. These effects include feeling very relaxed, tired, giddy, euphoric, and tingly. You will feel your worries and stress melt away as it induces a state of calm.
The way this works is this – as you inhale the sedative, it enters your bloodstream, where it is delivered to your brain. Once it reaches the brain, it triggers natural opioids for pain relief and it also emits dopamine and endorphins, which make you feel good.
This is why some patients feel giddy and even giggly (hence why it’s also called laughing gas). We recommend you avoid eating for 2 hours before your appointment to avoid feeling nauseous.
Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?
Yes, nitrous oxide is incredibly safe when administered by a professional, certified, and experienced dentist. While you always incur some level of risk whenever taking any sort of medication or sedative, nitrous oxide is the mildest and safest sedative in sedation dentistry.
The risk of any complications is incredibly low and you will be looked after by a team of professionals that monitors you throughout the procedure and knows how to respond quickly. We can remove the sedative just as quickly as we administer it. It wears off within just a few minutes.
You will also be completely conscious during the procedure because nitrous oxide is a conscious form of sedation. You remain aware of your surroundings and can respond to instructions provided by your dentist.
Can I Drive Home After Getting Nitrous Sedation at the Dentist?
Yes, nitrous oxide is the only sedative you can take that doesn’t cause lingering hangover effects. This is because nitrous oxide leaves the body after just a few minutes of removing your gas mask. It doesn’t linger in the body for 24 hours like other sedatives.
After a few minutes, you will return to your normal state and not feel any more effects of the sedative. Since the sedative completely wears off, you are free to return to your normal activities, including driving.
This is convenient because every other sedative requires arranging for a ride either from or both to and from your appointment. You would also be required to be monitored and have help walking around from more intense sedatives.
Nitrous oxide is mild enough and leaves the body quick enough that you don’t have to make extensive arrangements following your appointment.