Dental Health Answers
Nitrous Oxide and Conscious Sedation
What is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas”, is a safe and effective conscious sedation technique for both adults and children to help patients feel relaxed, relieve dental anxiety, and help make certain dental procedures easy and stress-free for patients. Nitrous oxide may also be used in combinations with other sedative agents.
Safety and Effectiveness
The American Dental Association and other dentistry journals have conducted research and studies, and have found Nitrous Oxide safe for use on both children and adults. Nitrous Oxide is administered in combination with Oxygen (02), via a small mask that fits over the nose.
Nitrous Oxide is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry and is well tolerated by most patients. It has a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. The patient remains fully conscious and maintains all natural reflexes when breathing nitrous oxide/oxygen. The patient will be capable of responding to questions or requests during the procedure.
Prior to administering Nitrous Oxide, Dr. Visanescu will review information about this sedation option, and answer any questions you may have.
Preparing For An Appointment
Typically, a separate appointment is scheduled for patients who will be receiving Nitrous Oxide during their procedure. Patients are advised to have little or no food for two hours preceding the dental visit because occasionally a full stomach can cause nausea or vomiting.
Patients or parents are advised to inform Dr. Visanescu if the patient is experiencing any respiratory condition that makes breathing through the nose difficult. A stuffy nose or other respiratory issues limit the effectiveness of nitrous oxide.
It is also important to tell Dr. Visanescu about any medications you or your child may be taking, or if there have been any chances to your medical history since your last visit.
Effects of Nitrous Oxide
Patients are encouraged to relax and lie back in the dental chair to start the appointment. Dr. Visanescu will place a mask over the nose of the patient, and will turn on the gas. Effects of Nitrous Oxide are almost immediate. You will smell a faint, sweet aroma and experience a sense of well-being and relaxation.
Since it may produce a feeling of giddiness or euphoria, it is often called “laughing gas”. Patients sometimes report feeling “dreamy” and their arms and legs may feel “tingly”.
Nitrous Oxide also raises the pain threshold and may even make the time appear to pass quickly. If you or your child are worried by the sights, sounds or sensations of dental treatment, you may respond more positively with the use of nitrous oxide/oxygen.
The effects of Nitrous Oxide wear off very quickly, typically within minutes after the flow of gas has stopped. Adult patients who choose Nitrous Oxide during their dental treatment are able to drive themselves home or even go back to work after a brief observation period at the office. Children are also observed for a brief period of time, and are able to get back to their normal routine right away.
Nitrous Oxide should not be confused with IV Sedation, where the patient receives general anesthesia via an IV and are “asleep” during the procedure.
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