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Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

When a dental procedure requires that the patient be sedated, nitrous oxide or laughing gas is most often used, whether the procedure requires the patient to be still or the patient experiences anxiety at the dentist.

What Is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a safe and effective inhaled sedative mixed with oxygen to relax patients with dental anxiety. It is a colorless, odorless gas that has been used in medicine for nearly a century. Nitrous oxide is inhaled through a special laughing gas mask fitted over the nose. Conscious sedation with nitrous oxide allows patients to remain awake during procedures, and it wears off a short time after.

While we strive to provide gentle dentistry in all of our dental procedures, smile gas is used by our dentists in Orlando, FL, to ease a patient’s anxiety during lengthy dental procedures. If you have questions whether laughing gas is right for you or about our other dental services, talk to our trained dentists at Thornton Park Dental Arts, where we administer all types of dental sedation.

When Is Nitrous Oxide Used?

There are a few common dental procedures during which dentists use laughing gas to relax patients. These include:

How Does Nitrous Oxide Work?

It’s important to know exactly how laughing gas affects the brain — despite its name, it’s not all fun and games. When a patient inhales the nitrous gas, it forces out the air already in the lungs and prevents oxygen from reaching the brain and the blood. This oxygen deprivation is what causes patients to laugh and even have mild hallucinations while under the effects of nitrous oxide. When a dentist administers laughing gas, patients will be asked to breathe normally through the nose. It takes just a few minutes to feel the effects, and because it can wear off quickly, it’s crucial that a constant stream of gas is maintained. As a precaution, patients should not eat for two hours before a procedure with the gas.

Who Can Use Nitrous Oxide?

Because laughing gas has very few side effects, it’s commonly recommended for people of all ages; in fact, it’s the preferred dental sedation method for children who have trouble sitting still or have anxiety about a dental procedure.

However, there are some instances when nitrous oxide sedation dentistry would not be the best way to go. Pregnant women should consult their doctor before having a dentist use laughing gas, and patients with a history of COPD, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency, cobalamin deficiency, or certain lung diseases should not use laughing gas.

Benefits Of Nitrous Oxide

Laughing gas is used in nearly one-third of dentist offices in the United States. It’s highly beneficial for dental professionals and patients alike, making the experience better for both parties. For patients with a fear of needles, laughing gas is ideal because it’s inhaled. Gases reach the brain faster, so the effects are quick — anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Also, a dentist can adjust the level of gas right away depending on the length and type of surgery which helps prevent overdoses. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off fast — five minutes or less. This means a patient can drive themselves home after the procedure if they want to.

Side Effects Of Nitrous Oxide

Though laughing gas is widely used and safe, there are a few side effects that could occur to be aware of including:

  • Momentary confusion
  • Leg numbness and/or pain
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shivering

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