Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
Nitrous Oxide is a sweet-smelling, non-irritating, colorless gas which you can breathe. It is used to allay anxiety that many patients may have toward dental treatment, and it offers some degree of painkilling ability.
Nitrous Oxide has been the primary means of sedation in dentistry for many years. With nitrous oxide sedation, the patient receives 50-70% oxygen with no less than 30% nitrous oxide.
The gas is administered with a comfortable mask placed over the nose, and the patient is instructed to breathe in and out through their nose. The patient is able to breathe on their own and remain in control of all bodily functions.
As a precaution, patients should not eat anything for about two hours prior to use of the gas. The patient begins to feel a pleasant level of sedation in anywhere from 30 seconds to three or four minutes. The cheeks and gums will also begin to feel numb in about a third of the patients. Occasional side effects may include transient numbness in the tips of patient’s fingers and/or toes.
After the gas is adjusted to the appropriate dose, and the patient is relaxed and sedated, Dr. Chan can comfortably give the anesthetic injection (if needed) to the patient, and then proceed with dental treatment. After the treatment is completed, the patient is given pure oxygen to breathe for about five minutes, and all the effects of sedation are usually reversed. The patient may experience mild amnesia and may fall asleep, not remembering all of what happened during their appointment. Unlike IV sedation or general anesthesia, the patient can almost always leave the office by themselves, without an escort.
Nitrous oxide has few side effects although high doses can cause nausea in some patients, and about 10% of patients do not benefit from it. Patients that are claustrophobic or have blocked nasal passages cannot use nitrous oxide effectively. Nitrous oxide is one of the safest anesthetics available.
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 are pregnant or 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, multiple sclerosis (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.